McCrory touts progress of goals, says he's keeping campaign promises

afrank@newsobserver.com jmurawski@newsobserver.comJuly 26, 2013 

Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday that he has stayed true to his campaign promises and delivered a good start to improving the economy.

“I appreciate the cooperation the legislature gave me in accomplishing 20 of the 22 objectives that I set out in my State of the State speech in January of this year,” he said.

The two not met: raises for state employees and an energy bill. He has signed more than 200 bills.

His comments came at a news conference at the Executive Mansion to mark the end of the General Assembly’s session. House lawmakers wrapped up Friday before noon. The Senate finished around 2 a.m. Friday.

While praising legislators, McCrory said he would sign two of the more controversial bills this session. One increases restrictions on abortion providers, and the other makes sweeping changes to election laws, including making voters show photo IDs at the polls. Both were approved by lawmakers Thursday.

McCrory has been under fire from opponents of the abortion bill who say he is reneging on a campaign promise not to support new restrictions on abortions.

But he disagrees with “the critics,” as he calls them. McCrory said that the bill would make abortions safer while not limiting access.

At an event later Friday, he told reporters he was not worried about a federal challenge to the state’s new voting law. “I feel confident that the law is going to stand,” he said. “It’s a fair law. It is asking for the same ID you have to use to get Sudafed or get food stamps and get into the White House.”

McCrory did not indicate when he might sign those bills, which are among the dozens awaiting his approval. Now that the legislature has adjourned, the governor has 30 days to sign them before they become law without his signature.

He got one out of the way Friday – the state’s $20.6 billion budget.

A few bills, however, give the governor pause. McCrory said his administration had concerns about the legality of a bill that requires drug tests for applicants to Work First, the state’s welfare program, if they are suspected of being drug users. He also said a bill that makes sweeping changes to environmental regulations violates his stance on billboards. He has maintained since he was mayor of Charlotte that local governments should be able to make their own decisions on prohibiting or allowing the billboard industry to put up signs. It wasn’t clear whether he would veto the bills. McCrory said he and his team are still maneuvering through the large regulatory overhaul bill.

One of McCrory’s priorities – which was considered key to his economic initiatives – was a reorganization of the Department of Commerce. That effort appeared dead when legislation related to it was derailed by a last-minute effort to include a fracking provision. The Senate pulled the bill Thursday night. On Friday, McCrory said his plan to form a public-private partnership for recruiting businesses to the state and negotiating financial incentive packages was still on track because it was included in the budget.

The budget allows the Commerce Department to spend $1 million to establish the public-private partnership and to cover the costs of reorganizing positions. He said the budget gives the state authority to create the entire program and the process would begin next week.

The partnership, which would use taxpayer money, would create the N.C. Economic Development Partnership and consolidate regional economic-development entities into prosperity zones. That approach is modeled on similar initiatives in Indiana, Arizona, Florida and other states. Such an organization can pay employees more and offer performance bonuses to compete with other states for top talent.

David Perlmutt of The Charlotte Observer contributed.

Frank: 919-829-4870

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