Under the Dome

Obama's N.C. ratings still waning, polls show

September 13, 2009 

President Barack Obama's popularity in North Carolina continues to slide, according to two new polls.

The conservative Civitas Institute found that 46.3 percent of voters disapprove of the president's performance, while 44.3 percent approve. The remaining 9.4 percent said they had no opinion. The poll of 662 North Carolina voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

The latest survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found that 51 percent of North Carolina voters disapprove of Obama's job performance, while 45 percent give Obama good marks. The survey of 600 North Carolina voters was taken Sept. 2-8, before Obama spoke to Congress on health-care reform. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The latest figures reflect a continuing slow decline in Obama's numbers in North Carolina. PPP says Obama's approval rating peaked at 54 percent in April. The fall has been particularly sharp among independent voters, dropping from a 50 percent approval rating in April to 39 percent in the latest survey.

Civitas Executive Director Francis DeLuca said several factors had hurt Obama in the state.

"The divisive health-care proposal along with unemployment in North Carolina remaining above 11 percent has sent President Barack Obama's job approval numbers in a downward spiral."

Free commute ended

The N.C. Agriculture Department allowed a deputy director to use a state vehicle to commute to Raleigh from Reidsville without reimbursing the state for three years, according to the State Auditor's Office.

A letter from the state auditor, Beth Wood, a Democrat, said that Patrick Jones, a deputy director of the Pesticide Section, was driving his state car to Raleigh four days a week, a financial benefit of $36,546. Auditors received a tip about it through an anonymous hot line.

State workers are allowed commuting benefits if employees work from home but do not drive to Raleigh more than twice a week.

Wood's letter recommended that Jones be required to repay the state.

In a response, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, a Republican, played down the case, saying that Jones and his supervisor intended for Jones to rarely drive to Raleigh. But the Ag-Mart pesticide case required Jones to be in Raleigh more often.

"We do not believe Mr. Jones engaged in any intentional misconduct and therefore we do not intend to take any disciplinary action against him," Troxler wrote. "Pat Jones is an outstanding employee. He is honest, hard-working and, because of his knowledge and experience, is one of our most valued employees."

Troxler said the car has been taken from Jones. The department intends to conduct an annual review of vehicle assignments and mileage logs.

Perdue seeks innovation

Gov. Beverly Perdue plans to create a state innovation council.

Perdue recently asked the state Economic Development Board to construct a plan to position the state to take advantage of a recovering economy. She asked for recommendations on, among other steps, how to attract industries such as defense contractors and aerospace companies, adjust the tax structure to help large and small businesses grow, and market the state around the world.

To aid in those efforts, Perdue wants some of the board members to also join a state innovation council of scientists and business leaders to draft policy recommendations on encouraging innovation and attracting venture capital.

"That's how you transition from the lab to the marketplace," Perdue said.

By staff writers Benjamin Niolet and Mark Johnson

benjamin.niolet@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4521

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