McCrory offers ‘North Carolina plan’ in State of State address
Governor Pat McCrory listed new initiatives for North Carolina in his State of the State address at the N.C. General Assembly Wednesday night.
In his second State of the State since being sworn in as governor in 2013, McCrory touched on a range of topics—including the economy, education, healthcare and transportation and infrastructure. He both highlighted his accomplishments as governor and laid out his plan for North Carolina’s future.
“Despite this tremendous accomplishment, there are still a lot of communities, small businesses and individuals that are hurting," McCrory said. "There is still much work to be done.”
The State of the State address is given by the governor every other year.
McCrory was vocal about the topic of health care reform, an issue that is prominent in both state and national dialogues. He said that he would work with state legislators to develop a North Carolina plan for Medicaid expansion in the coming year.
McCrory recommended a North Carolina plan that would expand the Medicaid program, which provides health insurance for those below the poverty line. Under McCrory's proposal, the state would obtain a waiver from the federal government which would allow it to bypass some of the expansion requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act while still receiving funding from the federal government.
“I will only recommend a North Carolina plan, not a Washington plan, so we can put patients first,” McCrory said.
Democratic legislators expressed cautious support for the governor's Medicaid expansion plan. Democratic Representative Tricia Cotham acknowledged that McCrory had to be mindful of political concerns within his own party.
“He [McCrory] gently from a political standpoint took a step in the right direction,” she said.
McCrory noted that Medicaid was a hotly contested issue in the last legislative session.
“Last session, we came close to passing Medicaid reform, but progress stalled on the one-yard-line. Let’s not take another pass this year,” he said.
Also on the topic of health and safety, McCrory highlighted state efforts to combat drug addiction. He specifically highlighted the Let's Talk It Out underage drinking advertising campaign currently being run by the state.
“These ads about underage drinking hit you at the heart,” he said.
McCrory’s rhetoric about health and wellness as it relates to youth and veterans also appealed to Cotham.
“As a former high school principal, I was really glad to hear talk about underage drinking and drug abuse.” she said
McCrory additionally discussed how health and wellness issues relate to veterans’ affairs, placing a big emphasis on programs to aid veterans as they re-enter to civillian life. He announced plans to expand the Veterans Treatment Courts program, which could be expanding into Durham.
On the topic of courts, McCrory announced several efforts to reform the criminal justice system in an attempt to improve retention of correction officers. Initiatives he discussed included implementing intelligence-based crime prevention initiatives and efforts to reduce drug use and gang membership in prisons.
McCrory announced several other new initiatives—including structural reforms to oversight of worker’s compensation claims, the NC Competes job program, a historic preservation tax credit and a plan to raise teacher base pay to $35,000 per year.
Despite all the new initiatives he announced, McCrory acknowledged the budget strain that North Carolina still faces, even in the years since the recession. McCrory noted that entitlements like pensions are still a major expenditure.
“All of our challenges and initiatives will require money and resources—like last session, money will be tight," he said. “Much of our budget is already obligated as we sit down to write the budget in the coming weeks.”
Leah Abrams, a high school junior from Carrboro and state senate page who attended the speech, said she enjoyed listening to the governor talk about the economic plans for North Carolina’s future. However, she also expressed concern that McCrory didn't cover some important issues in his speech.
“I wish there was more on Medicare, women’s rights and unfreezing teacher pay,” she said.