Campbell: Slow down and get it right
Both Gov. Pat McCrory and our General Assembly reached milestones last week and, as we pundits are prone to think, they warrant marking and remarking about.
Pat McCrory reached 100 days in his tenure as governor and nobody will refute he was thrown into the deep end on day one. With the notable exception of budget director Art Pope his team is largely new to state government and has experienced a trial-by-fire on-the-job-training. From the get-go they had to deal with operational problems, Medicaid cost overruns, a big industrial recruitment deal, the head-winds of a legislature primed for action and the crafting of a credible state budget.
McCrory announced Medicaid reforms and a reorganization of the Department of Commerce, with promises of more big announcements soon. The biggest complaint we hear is that despite all the talk of customer service it is hard to get the Governor’s office to return calls or emails.
After 12 weeks in session it is also a good time to assess this General Assembly. Some 1,700 bills have been introduced, certainly not a record but indicative of the enthusiasm shown by having many new members. A cursory look at these bills confirms most will never see a floor vote, but that is also usually the case.
The speed with which the legislature overturned Gov. Beverly Perdue’s commitment for a federal-state health insurance exchange, denied the expansion of Medicaid, patched up group home funding for Medicaid and moved to deal with our unemployment insurance debt was surprising. There have been approximately 35 bills enacted, several others which have passed one house and at least one, the reorganization of boards and commissions, stuck in conference committee. Action always slows at this point in session as bills make their way through committee.
The big criticism of this legislature is they seem intent on picking unnecessary fights, especially with cities, and focus more on their political agenda than on resolving large state issues. We understand there are closed-door discussions taking place on the highly touted tax reforms, education reform, Medicaid reform and their primary responsibility, a new biennial state budget to take effect July 1.
How well are the governor and legislature getting along? In the early going the legislature was largely ignoring this administration they way they did Perdue’s. McCrory was upset when lawmakers passed Medicaid legislation without involving him, while legislators were miffed they weren’t involved in McCrory’s Medicaid reform proposals. There is always a certain amount of animus between the two branches of government but we suspect they will learn to work together in greater harmony.
If there were one piece of advice we could offer both the governor and legislature it would be this: Slow down and get it right. We have some pretty big problems facing North Carolina and we appreciate and applaud our leaders’ commitment to act. A strong case can be made that previous administrations and legislatures didn’t respond soon enough or decisively enough, but hasty acts often require corrective action. If history and our people are to fully their actions we urge state leaders to take the time to bring all factions to the table, employ our best and brightest minds and reach consensus solutions. Getting it right is more important than doing it fast.
Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN, a discussion of state issues airing Sundays at 6:30a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV FOX50. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.