McCrory’s mediocre budget fails to divert attention from his pro-discrimination law

By Chris Fitzsimon - N.C. Policy Watch

Things aren’t going very well for Gov. Pat McCrory these days. The massive opposition to the anti-LGBT bill HB2 he signed into law last month continues to grow with more corporations demanding that legislators repeal the law while the tally of jobs and tourism revenue lost continues to rise.

Every day brings news of another group of corporate or religious leaders criticizing the law and another set of cancellations of performances and conventions.

Wednesday the NCAA announced a new anti-discrimination process for areas seeking to host its sporting events, putting North Carolina at risk of losing basketball tournaments and other NCAA competitions that pump millions of dollars into the state’s economy.

And McCrory can’t go anywhere without facing questions about the law or hearing about more prominent people opposing it. Earlier this week Charlotte developer and McCrory donor Johnny Harris said HB2 was hurting all aspects of business in Charlotte, McCrory’s hometown.

The controversy surrounding HB2 is overwhelming McCrory’s governorship.

That was clear again Wednesday when State Budget Director Andrew Heath appeared before a legislative committee to present the governor’s budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

That is usually a huge story, the administration presenting its sending plan for education, human services, teacher and state employees compensation, and everything else state government does.

But Heath’s appearance before the legislative committee produced no dramatic highlights or headlines with most of the discussion about why McCrory is not proposing a raise for state employees, only a one-time bonus.

And the budget presentation was overshadowed by a comment from Senator Tom Apodaca that lawmakers might put HB2 on the ballot this fall as a constitutional amendment to give voters their say.

Also part of the reason the budget wasn’t a bigger story was that McCrory and Heath held a news conference Friday to release some of the budget details, including a five-percent raise for many teachers.

But Friday’s budget event didn’t dominate the news cycle either, partially because McCrory clumsily didn’t release the full budget that day and because President Obama weighed in against HB2 when he was asked about it at a news conference in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Another reason that McCrory’s budget hasn’t diverted attention from the HB2 controversy is that the budget itself is mediocre, making some small investments in areas that have been neglected in recent years while the General Assembly and McCrory were cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

McCrory’s budget proposal was hamstrung by the tax cuts he supported that leave no money to give both teachers and state employees a raise, much less start making the meaningful investments desperately needed in education and human services after the woefully inadequate funding of the last few years.

And Senate leaders want to cut taxes again this year and they have overpowered McCrory in recent sessions.

Add it all up and you have an administration under siege with the governor now becoming the face of the opposition to LGBT rights in America.

It would take a bold budget proposal indeed to change that conversation, a governor thinking big about ways to invest more to move the state forward.

That’s not this governor and that’s not in his budget.

So the opposition to HB2 will continue to grow and dominate the headlines and the frustration about that in the McCrory Administration is likely to increase as the bunker mentality expands with more lashing out against the corporations and groups that oppose the discrimination law that McCrory signed.

HB2 is now defining the governor and there’s really only one thing he can do to change that, acknowledge his mistake in signing it and demand its repeal to repair the tremendous damage its doing to North Carolina.

But sadly, that’s not this governor either.

Chris Fitzsimon is the founder and executive director of N.C. Policy Watch

By Chris Fitzsimon

N.C. Policy Watch

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