Under the Dome

May 8, 2014

Morning Memo: What will McCrory cut to pay for teacher plan?

Gov. Pat McCrory debuted his big teacher plan with great fanfare Wednesday, moving the conversation from election politics to governing. But he avoided one teeny-tiny absolutely huge question: How will he pay for it? And the more pointed question is this: What will he cut?

Gov. Pat McCrory debuted his big teacher plan with great fanfare Wednesday, moving the conversation from election politics to governing.

The plan met a skeptical audience in Republican legislative leaders and criticism from Democrats. But more importantly, it avoided one teeny-tiny absolutely huge question: How will he pay for it? And the more pointed question is this: What will he cut?

McCrory refused to discuss the funding in detail. But he can’t print money and the state is forecasting a major budget shortfall near $445 million this year. State lawmakers left some money unspent when they wrote the budget last year, but not enough to cover all the governor’s spending priorities.

So where will the governor’s budget – due next week – cut spending to pay for teacher and state employee raises? McCrory offered a clue hidden in the end of today’s story: McCrory said covering long-term changes in the teacher pay scale will be the top priority for any additional revenue growth in coming years and will take precedence over “future tax changes.”

What this may reference is a provision in the 2013 tax cut that cut corporate income taxes in future years depending on state revenue growth. But if McCrory voids those future tax cuts – expect critics to label it a tax hike. And expect others to want to go further with more tax breaks.

Those critics are likely to be Republicans, not Democrats (who argued the tax cuts went too far to help the rich). If you thought the Republican intra-squad fight ended in the primary election Tuesday, brace yourself. The General Assembly opens its session next week.

***Read more about the governor’s teacher pay plan and get your Senate race fix below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will celebrate the state tourism industry’s benefits at a 9 a.m. press conference in Nags Head and then attend an energy conference in Charlotte at 1 p.m.

But more attention will focus on Senate leader Phil Berger who is holding a 10 a.m. briefing at the state house to preview the legislative session. Despite what House Speaker Thom Tillis has been saying on the U.S. Senate campaign trail about leading the “conservative revolution,” Berger was widely seen as the driving force of the Republican agenda in the 2013 session. And where he stands on a range of issues – including teacher pay – will likely set the tone for this upcoming session.

In Charlotte, former Republican Mayor Richard Vinroot and former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, a Democrat, will announce a new coalition to revamp the way the state draws political boundaries. It’s called North Carolinians to End Gerrymandering Now. The announcement takes place at noon at Robinson, Bradshaw and Hinson law offices at 101 N. Tryon St.

#NCSEN ---

THE SENATE RACE BEGINS, AS TILLIS AND HAGAN JOCKEY FOR POSITION: Instead of talking Washington, Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan launched the U.S. Senate race Wednesday with attacks on each other’s state legislative records.

A day after winning the Republican primary, Tillis criticized Hagan’s five terms in the state Senate more than her five years in the U.S. Senate, saying she added sales taxes and regulations in her tenure as a state budget writer.

“If you take a look at what we’ve done over the last three years, much of what I’ve been doing is cleaning up Kay Hagan’s mess in North Carolina,” Tillis said in an interview on MSNBC.

Hagan, in turn, blasted Tillis’ legislative record by pointing to a comment he made in October 2011 that suggested the state needed to “find a way to divide and conquer” those most in need from others who receive public assistance.

“We should be working together to improve people’s lives, not pitting people against each other with the politics of division,” Hagan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Speaker Tillis’ comment is not an isolated incident, and more than anything, his damaging legislative agenda that has been wrong for our state shows that his comments were no mistake.”

HOW WILL TILLIS POSITION HIMSELF FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION? Tillis is walking a fine line if he tries to move to more moderate ground, as political observers expect. David McLennan, a political expert at William Peace University, said Tillis will want to avoid “the Mitt Romney label,” a reference to the former presidential candidate’s evolving positions.

“He’s staked out his positions in the primary and he’s got to live with them,” McLennan said. “If he runs to the center he runs the risk of tea partiers and social conservatives not coming out” to vote in November.

Bill Bostic, a 62-year-old from Asheboro, worked eight hours at the polls Tuesday supporting Tillis’ rival Greg Brannon, who aligned himself with the tea party and finished second in the primary.

Skeptical of Tillis, Bostic said he is considering voting for the Libertarian Party candidate, Sean Haugh. If he sticks with the Republican Party, he won’t do so with enthusiasm. “There’s casting a vote and there’s having passion for a candidate,” he said Wednesday. “They are different things.”

“If I had to choose between not-so-good and rotten,” he continued, referring to Tillis and Hagan respectively, “I’ll choose not-so-good.” Read more here.

HOW KARL ROVE’S GROUP SWEPT TILLIS TO THE TO P – From National Journal: The goal was simple: Increase Tillis’s low name identification, knowing his opponents wouldn’t have the resources to fight back. In January, the group commissioned a survey from veteran GOP pollster Jan van Lohuizen showing Tillis only tallying 16 percent in the crowded field, with 60 percent of Republican voters unsure of their choice. Just over one-quarter of North Carolina GOP voters were familiar with Tillis. But in the middle of their advertising blitz in late April, another poll commissioned by Crossroads and conducted by van Lohuizen found Tillis’s name identification had shot up to 66 percent, with him tallying 38 percent of the primary vote. That same poll showed only about one-third of voters familiar with Brannon and Harris.

Their strategy was twofold: Spend early to avoid a financially costly runoff that could wound Tillis for the general election and begin to make the case against embattled Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. It worked, with Tillis winning well over 40 percent across the board, in most North Carolina counties. Read more here.

ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: North Carolina Senate race ratings change. Read more here.

GOOGLE SEARCH: American Rising, a Republican opposition research outfit, wants you to google “Kay Hagan.” The group said it bought ads to try to define the Democratic incumbent with a “5 things to know about Kay Hagan” page. See it here.

MORE COVERAGE – Dan Balz: North Carolina is this year’s ground zero in American politics. Read more here. NYT opinion blog: There are no mainstream Republicans left in North Carolina. Read more here. Salon: Tea Party nut in RINO’s clothing: Meet North Carolina’s real Thom Tillis. Read more here. AP: N.C. Dems say GOP nominee is too far right. Read more here. New Yorker: Money, politics and pollution in North Carolina. Read more here. Washington Post: Explaining the model showing Hagan runaway favorite. Read more here. LA Times: Tillis win a victory for refedined GOP. Read more here.

#NCPOL ---

CRISCO REFUSES TO CONCEDE TO CLAY AIKEN – COUNTING CONTINUES: Keith Crisco and Clay Aiken kept low profiles Wednesday, the day after the would-be Democratic nominees for a congressional seat from North Carolina were stuck in a contest too close to call.

The outcome is on hold until provisional and absentee ballots can be counted. It could be a week or more before the final results are in.

At the end of Tuesday’s voting, Aiken had received 369 votes more than Crisco in the 2nd Congressional District primary. With 276 outstanding ballots – 190 absentee and 86 provisional – that won’t change Aiken’s position. But it could be enough to trigger a recount.

As a result, even though he is trailing, Crisco says he isn’t giving up.

“This election is still very tight,” Crisco said in a statement his campaign released. “I want the elections officials to have an opportunity to tally the votes and provide a report on their canvass activities to allow all the campaigns a chance to see the final numbers. This has been a great campaign and I am very appreciative of my supporters and the hard work that the county boards of elections are doing at this time.” Read more here.

6TH DISTRICT GOP RACE MOVES TO RUNOFF – From The News & Record: Mark Walker says he believes his campaign message of putting people first helped him finish second to Phil Berger Jr. in the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District seat, and he plans to spread that message even further before the runoff July 15.

“I think putting people before politics resonates with people,” Walker said Wednesday. A former minister at Lawndale Baptist Church, Walker emerged from Tuesday’s primary with 25 percent of the vote. Berger, the Rockingham County district attorney, received 34 percent, according to complete but unofficial results. Read more here.

BOARD OF ELECTION FACING QUESTIONS ABOUT SOFTWARE GLITCHES: On election nights, the State Board of Elections’ website is supposed to function for the public as ESPN’s SportsCenter does for sports fans, providing up-to-the-minute and accurate results of the day’s contests.

That didn’t happen Tuesday night. Glitches marred the results for races across the state, from the closely watched U.S. Senate and N.C. Supreme Court primaries to state House and Senate races. As vote counts came in from the 100 counties, many took to Twitter and other social media to express frustration with the agency.

Board of Elections officials on Wednesday took the blame for the problems and said they are reviewing the reporting system to keep them from surfacing again. Read more here.

THE BIG STORY – GOVERNOR UNVEILS EDUCATION PLAN: Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday he’ll ask state legislators to give all teachers 2 percent raises this year and move toward revamping the way North Carolina’s teachers are paid.

The long-term plan, which will be piloted by eight districts if the General Assembly approves, would base pay not just on experience and credentials but on performance, market competition and leadership roles for classroom teachers. It could add up to an extra $20,000 in annual pay for teachers who meet all the marks, while leaving lower performers without automatic yearly raises, McCrory said.

“The current pay plan is old, it’s outdated, and it doesn’t frankly work for the 21st century,” McCrory said.

Despite recent grim budget projections, the governor said there’s money in 2014-15 for small across-the-board raises, along with the 7 percent raises for early-career teachers that he and legislative leaders announced in February.

McCrory said his budget, which will be released next week, will include $265 million for teacher raises, including the early-career boosts announced in February, $9 million to pilot the new “career pathways” approach, $3.6 million to expand early childhood education and $46 million to double the money available for textbooks. Read more here.

MIXED MESSAGES – LT. GOV. FOREST OFFERS DUELING VISION: Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and state Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican who co-chaired a recent task force on teacher compensation, unveiled a plan later Wednesday to set up an endowment fund for teacher performance pay, with money coming from donations, special license plates and the state budget. Forest said the fund would be “another piece of the puzzle” that could help support McCrory’s ideas. Read more and see videos here.

OP-ED: BUDGT DISASTER OF GIGANTIC PROPORTIONS LOOMS – From Sabra Faires, a former assistant secretary for tax administration at the N.C. Department of Revenue: The Office of State Budget and Management describes the reported year-end state budget hole of $445 million as “disappointing.” It’s not a mere disappointment, however. It’s a symptom of a larger problem that is downright alarming. That larger problem is the structural deficit the General Assembly has created. Read more here.


12th District race is first without Charlotte Democrat on ballot. Read more here.

U.S. Senate passes Kilah’s law; bill aims to stiffen penalties for child abuse. Read more here.

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