Why This State Of The State Speech Might Be Different
Wednesday night, Governor Pat McCrory will give the annual State of the State address. This is, of course, an annual event. But this speech could have more influence on North Carolina politics than in years past.
There are some things you are just about guaranteed to hear Governor Pat McCrory tout tonight. Job creation, Carolina comeback, "Carolina whatever you want to fill in the blank with," says Michael Bitzer, political science professor at Catawba College. As for policy priorities? "Probably Medicaid, teacher pay, the budget, tax incentives."
Mix in some new infrastructure programs and high tech innovation, a dash of coal ash regulation and at least a passing reference to hydraulic fracking and you have the basic recipe McCrory will use to state that the state of our state is strong.
Where tonight’s speech differs from prior speeches will not be in the script.
It’s in the General Assembly.
Take what’s known as the historic preservation tax credit. It’s a program that provided a 20 to 30 percent tax break to developers who rehab and repurpose some existing structures. That incentive program expired on December 31. When asked about it at his first press conference this year, Senate President Phil Berger said, "We’re quite frankly interested in what the governor’s proposal will be to address that."
That’s turned into a common refrain in the Statehouse. Since Republicans took the majority in 2011 they’ve had a raft of bills waiting at the start of each legislative session. But they’ve done much of what they planned to do. "There doesn’t seem to be the kind of set agendas that everybody is coming into," says Bitzer.
Which means this year, the legislature is looking to the governor to take the initiative on initiatives.
There’s another way this speech may differ Randy Voller expects a more centrist tone. "I hope to hear the governor has finally broken away from the tea party fever and is moving toward more moderate positions." Voller is the chairman of the North Carolina Democratic party. He thinks McCrory will use tonight’s address as a way to position himself for an expected 2016 re-election campaign. "Certainly he ran as a moderate in 2012. I think he’s probably going to show some independence so that he could appeal to a base of voters that will give him a pathway to be re-elected."
And a recent survey by Public Policy Polling shows McCrory may need that boost. It found 41 percent of North Carolinians approve of the job the governor has done while 45 percent disapprove. But the governor is ahead of two likely Democratic opponents.