Gov. Roy Cooper’s final two Cabinet appointees are under review by the state Senate this week.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee recommended the approval of Ron Penny, who is Cooper’s choice to run the Department of Revenue, the state’s tax-collecting agency. Penny is leading the department now, but is subject to confirmation by the Senate under a law passed shortly before the Democratic governor took office Jan. 1.
On Wednesday, Eric Boyette is scheduled to appear before the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee for his nomination as secretary of the Department of Information Technology.
Both nominations are to be considered by a confirmation committee and then the full Senate.
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The eight other members of the governor’s Cabinet were confirmed earlier.
Penny, a former state personnel director, university administrator and lawyer, came out of retirement to take the job.
He met with many of the finance committee members last week, and repeated at Tuesday’s meeting his commitment to protecting taxpayers without partisan considerations. He vowed to treat taxpayers with respect in a customer-service approach – which resonates with a key part of the Republican-controlled legislature’s agenda for the past several years.
Penny said challenges ahead include planning for the impending retirement of key leaders in the department, and protecting its computer systems from hackers. He said the Senate budget proposes to allocate enough money to do that.
Senators pressed him on how firm he would be in resisting pressure from outside over tax disputes. Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Republican from Union County, said he has heard the department’s auditing policy is “Gestapo-like” and some staffers are adversarial. Tucker asked if Penny would support tax amnesty by waiving penalties and interest in order to reduce the amount of back taxes owed to the state.
Penny said he doesn’t have that discretion, but would follow whatever laws the legislature passes.
Sen. Andy Wells, a Republican from Hickory, suggested Penny’s Facebook page had a “highly partisan flavor,” and asked if that should concern someone from the other political party who was being audited. Penny replied that he doesn’t do the audits.
Penny’s Facebook entries are predominantly of a religious nature, with a handful of remarks in support of Cooper and mildly critical of comments by former Gov. Pat McCrory.
Despite the pointed questions, the committee roundly supported his nomination and voted unanimously to recommend him for the job.