Gov. Pat McCrory didn’t offer many specifics during his campaign for governor, but he was clear about a few things.
Two of them were that he supported an overhaul of the state tax code that was revenue neutral and that he would not sign legislation putting any more restrictions on access to abortion services.
The promises provided some small comfort to folks worried that the Republican legislative leaders would make even more devastating budget cuts to education and human services in the name of tax reform and would take further steps to strip away fundamental reproductive health care rights from women in North Carolina.
At least on these two issues, McCrory would be the backstop to prevent the Tea Party General Assembly from passing its most radical proposals.
McCrory said at a news conference Monday that he does still believe tax reform should be revenue neutral, which under almost any definition would mean that the new tax structure would bring in at least the same amount of revenue as the old one to keep state services at current levels.
But then McCrory offered a new definition, saying that revenue neutral means “able to meet the budgetary requirements of state government.” That’s a much different standard.
The latest version of the Senate tax plan would decrease state revenues by a billion dollars a year when fully implemented.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger wrongly claims that would allow enough revenue growth to meet the state’s essential needs. So under McCrory’s new definition and Berger’s version of essential needs, that disastrous plan could be considered revenue neutral while making it virtually impossible to adequately fund education, health care and other vital state services.
The House plan would reduce state revenues, too, by several hundred million dollars a year. Neither proposal for tax changes comes close to McCrory’s insistence on revenue neutrality — at least his old definition.
McCrory appears to be playing even more disingenuous semantic games with the radical anti-choice legislation rushed through the Senate last week.
McCrory was asked during a debate last fall what legislation further restricting access to abortion services he would sign and he replied, “None.” Monday he restated the promise that he would not sign a bill that would restrict access, which the current legislation clearly does.
But McCrory refused to say he would veto the bill, leaving open the possibility that he would allow it to become law without his signature, technically keeping his campaign pledge not to sign any further abortion restrictions.
Maybe that’s not what he has in mind, but declining to pledge to use his veto pen makes you wonder if McCrory is considering the cowardly way of dealing with the highly controversial issue.
In fact, listening to McCrory redefine terms about taxes and carefully parse his words about the abortion bill in light of his campaign promises, you half-expected him to say it all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.
McCrory spent most of the campaign for governor talking about the need for real leadership in North Carolina. Surely this is not what he had in mind.
— Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch, an independent project of the N.C. Justice Center.