Dome: Group challenges McCrory to live on $350 a week

Staff writersJanuary 28, 2013 

The advocacy group Action NC is challenging Gov. Pat McCrory to live for a week on $350, the new maximum unemployment benefit legislators are set to propose.

A bill cutting the maximum weekly benefit by a third, to $350 a week, and reducing the weeks on unemployment from 26 to between 12 and 20, depending on the state’s unemployment rate, is expected to move quickly through the legislature.

The GOP proposal is aimed at dealing with the state’s $2.5 billion debt to the federal government. The state borrowed the money to pay unemployment benefits.

If McCrory thinks this is a good idea, it’s obvious he has no idea what it’s like to live on so little money,” said Kevin Rogers, Action NC’s policy director.

McCrory is expected to make his position on the unemployment benefits known this week.

The idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds. In 2007, several members of Congress scaled back even more by taking up the “Food Stamp Challenge.” The idea, pushed by food banks and coalitions against hunger, was for people to try to live on the amount of the average food stamp benefit for a week or longer. More recently, Cory Booker, the Newark, N.J. mayor and rising star in the Democratic party, took up the challenge in December.

If McCrory opted to take up that challenge as well as Action NC’s, he should know that the state’s average food stamp benefit is $121.37 – or $30.25 a week.

Leaning, not tilting, for Hagan

The Rothenberg Political Report ranks U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s seat “leans Democrat” in the first 2014 Senate election ratings. The report – a leading Washington handicapper – says: “Given the GOP’s recent victories in the state, Hagan is almost guaranteed a serious challenge.”

A dozen seats are safe for each party. Of the nine competitive seats, three “lean Democrat,” three “tilt Democrat” and one is favored Democrat. (Tilt is considered more competitive by Rothenberg.)

Republicans are favored in two but only one seat leans Republican. And one – South Dakota – is a pure toss up.

The Washington Post’s political prognosticators rank the Greensboro Democrat’s seat No. 4 on their list of most competitive Senate seats. The write-up: “A recent poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling shows Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s approval rating is underwater, but she nonetheless leads potential GOP competitors. If Republicans can find the right candidate, Hagan will face a tough road to reelection.”

Democrats spent big in Charlotte

Charlotte city leaders have announced that last year’s Democratic National Convention produced an economic impact of $163.6 million, with $91 million in direct spending.

Officials hired a private firm to compile the numbers.

Estimates before the event were that 35,000 visitors would come to Charlotte, and that it would provide a $200 million boost to the local economy.

IT hire for DHHS

Joseph Cooper Jr., an information technology specialist with extensive professional experience at major banks, has been hired to be the chief information officer at the state Department of Health and Human Services.

This is a newly created executive-level position, and Cooper will earn $175,000 a year. He starts in early February.

Cooper will be responsible for all of the department’s information technology projects, including the troubled Medicaid billing system, which is behind schedule and over budget.

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and Gov. Pat McCrory’s IT chief Chris Estes announced the hire.

“The technology needs of DHHS are many, glaring and longstanding,” Wos said in a statement. “Without adequate, up-to-date technology, this Department can neither capably nor efficiently serve the millions of North Carolinians who rely on DHHS.”

Cooper has been senior VP for technology and operations with RBC in Raleigh since 2009. He was a VP and chief information officer at First Citizens in Raleigh for 15 years, and worked at Bank of America in Charlotte for 17 years.

Staff writers Lynn Bonner and John Frank

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