Under the Dome

Dome: McCrory dismisses concerns about his private briefing for big donors

From Staff ReportsJune 26, 2013 

Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday dismissed concerns about his participation this week in a big-dollar event for donors to a private nonprofit, saying what he is doing is right for the state.

McCrory is scheduled to attend a $5,000-a-participant retreat Thursday and Friday at a luxurious Greensboro resort that features a dinner and policy briefing on state issues. The Republican said he is not concerned about the perception of paying for access or the timing of the event, which comes at the crux of the legislative session.

“Everything we are doing is right regardless of the perception you are giving,” McCrory said in an interview after he signed a major transportation bill, one of his top legislative priorities. “We are doing things right and in the proper way.”

He said the event is no different than meeting with other business groups, as he has done many times.

The event is hosted by the Renew North Carolina Foundation, an organization created after his election and led by top McCrory allies whose mission is to boost the governor’s agenda.

McCrory also discussed the tax plans now being worked on in the legislature, saying that one his major concerns is making sure the final measure provides enough money to fund his priorities.

He said the bill needs to allow enough tax revenue to “fit some of my objectives.”

“The major scenarios I’m looking for are scenarios where the money actually ads up, not just this year, but two, three and four years down the line,” he said. “That will be one of my major issues of whether I go along with tax reform, is do the revenue projects meet my test of needing to operate government in an efficient and effective way.”

McCrory stopped short of supporting the compromise scenario put forth by Budget Director Art Pope, saying it is just one of the five to 10 analyses he’s looked at as part of the tax negotiations between the House and Senate.

But his stance on revenue growth may put him at odds with lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, which envisions the tax bill as a way to limit government spending significantly in future years.

Fixing up the place

The N.C. House is now part art gallery. House leaders added eight landscape paintings to the gray brick walls to give the chamber a little more life.

From just the right angle, when Wilmington Republican Rick Catlin stands to speak, it looks like he’s back on the shoreline for a sunrise on Coquina Beach. Likewise, state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, an Apex Republican, can appear on the serene shoreline of Cherokee Lake.

The paintings are part of J. Chris Wilson’s “Murphy to Manteo: An Artist’s Scenic Journey.” Wilson is a Georgia native who moved to North Carolina in 1974. He served until 2012 as a faculty member at Barton College in Wilson.

Rep. Justin Burr, an Albemarle Republican, helped spur the effort to display the paintings hung Friday. He said he saw the big portrait of George Washington in the old House chambers at the Capitol and wanted to do the same in the new chambers. His plan to put up paintings of leaders like Washington and Abraham Lincoln fell through, but Wilson’s art, which is also on display at the state art museum, is a good substitute.

“We kind of felt it added something to the chamber,” he said. “We just went with scenery of North Carolina to show off the state a little bit.”

Wilson is painting 100 landscapes from places within 10 miles of U.S. 64, a highway that runs the length of the state. The largest is a nearly 16 feet by 7 feet, a painting of the beach sunrise from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It took a dozen people to get it through the front door and into the second-floor chamber.

House Clerk Denise Weeks said the idea of hanging art on the walls is not new but Speaker Thom Tillis is the first to make it happen.

Targeting Hagan

The effort to draft Rev. Mark Harris is beginning to look more like a campaign.

The committee to draft the Charlotte Republican for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday announced the hiring of a new political director. Tracy Bengston of Davidson worked as scheduler for Republican Dan Forest’s 2012 campaign for lieutenant governor. This month she managed Joyce Krawiec’s campaign for vice chair of the state GOP.

Harris is pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church and president of the Baptist State Convention.

Last month, his supporters filed papers for an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission. He’s on a “listening” tour of the state and is expected to make a decision later this summer.

House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius and Cary physician Greg Brannon are the only announced GOP candidates for the seat held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

Staff writer John Frank and Charlotte Observer staff writer Jim Morrill

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