How long before you own the problem?
Last weekend, Gov. Pat McCrory appeared on my statewide television talk show NC SPIN to discuss his first eight months in office. Throughout that interview he blamed many of the state’s current problems on the policies and budget he inherited from former governor Beverly Perdue. In the case of the budget, he is wrong.
North Carolinians gave Democrats a long leash to fix problems in our state but evidently came to the conclusion Democrats were the problem and voted them out in 2010, replacing them with large Republican majorities in both the state House and Senate. The budget Governor McCrory inherited was actually passed by that Republican-led legislature. Governor Perdue vetoed it, but the legislature subsequently voted to override her veto. Republicans “own” that budget, pure and simple.
The “it was broken when we got here” song is the same one we’ve heard for the past two years from our Republican legislative leadership. In fairness, most understood problems of the magnitude they and the governor faced upon taking office weren’t likely to be fixed in a few weeks or months. But the governor inadvertently raised a larger question. What is a reasonable time frame before the administration or the legislature should themselves be held accountable for ongoing problems? If not eight months, is a year, two years or three long enough?
Our legislature has been under Republican control for two years and eight months. While North Carolina’s unemployment rate soared under Democratic leadership we still have the third highest rate in the nation, with 44 of 100 counties exceeding 10 percent. At what point is it fair to say Republicans own this unemployment problem?
We’ve known for years that Medicaid costs were out of control, and if you want to place blame somewhere you have to agree the cost escalations started when Democrats were in charge and they didn’t fix the problems. In truth, whether Democrats or Republicans control the General Assembly, that group isn’t totally responsible for two reasons.
First, the federal government must approve any significant changes to Medicaid and that approval is very slow to come. Legislators do have indirect budget control over Medicaid and DHHS but little operational control. That said, if we are going to ascribe responsibility to Democrats or previous administrations for Medicaid problems, how long should we wait to conclude Republicans and Governor McCrory “own” Medicaid problems?
We could and should ask the same question about education, transportation, public infrastructure and a host of other issues.
In the current political climate, with the magnitude of problems our state now faces, Governor McCrory and legislative leaders need to know that just telling us something is broken and playing blame games is only acceptable for so long. They can’t get a free pass indefinitely. At some point we have to say Republicans own these problems. If public opinion polls are accurate the public is running out of patience rapidly. They will be delivering a report card to legislators next year in the 2014 elections.
The truism that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution was never more appropriate. McCrory and our legislators would be wise to quit blaming and start showing us solutions to our many problems.
Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN, a weekly television discussion of N.C. issues airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV FOX50. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.