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A glimpse of a different governor

Remember the Pat McCrory you voted for in 2012? Moderate North Carolinians do. That Pat was a fellow centrist, a fiscally sensible Republican with a history of working with anyone interested in thoughtful, pragmatic solutions to issues. But that Pat wasn’t what we got.

Instead, North Carolina got a boy on a runaway horse. McCrory was cowed by a fiercely conservative legislature, meekly bowing to the far right agenda that crossed his desk, even when it caused him to break a promise on abortion.

But lately, North Carolina is seeing glimpses of the old, bolder McCrory. Earlier this month, he proposed a plan that gives N.C. teachers a short-term pay increase and long-term salary boost. It wasn’t a perfect proposal – educators were right to complain this week that 1,500 N.C. teachers with 37 years experience or more were left out of the initial raise pool. But it’s a promising plan with enough substance to act on quickly this legislative session.

On Thursday, the governor also proposed some sensible changes to North Carolina’s film tax credit program, which is set to expire at the end of this year. Lawmakers were skeptical of the lucrative tax breaks, especially after two state economists calculated last month that the state was giving out more in film incentives than it was gaining in jobs and revenue.

But instead of scrapping the incentives, McCrory proposed Thursday a plan that reduces the cap on payouts from $20 million per production to $6 million, while tying the tax credit more closely to jobs. He also proposed a separate credit that encouraged construction of permanent film facilities in the state.

Film companies will likely want more than what the governor proposes, and some lawmakers will likely want less. But as with teacher pay, McCrory’s plan finds a creative, substantial way to move the conversation forward.

With each, McCrory also is annoying Republican lawmakers who’d prefer the governor simply say yes to their ideas. Good. Voters elected their governor to lead, be it up front with policy or as a check on bills that are bad for the state.

Time will tell if McCrory is finally ready to be that governor. For starters, North Carolina needs him to follow-through on teacher pay. He needs to reconsider, as other thoughtful Republican governors have, his state’s refusal of Medicaid expansion. He also needs to rein in a legislature that continues to micro-manage cities and towns with legislation telling them how they can and can’t raise revenue and regulate. The mayor he once was knows that state governments should stick to running the state. The governor he is should use his pulpit, and his veto, to stop the meddling.

Will he? With teacher pay and film incentives, McCrory is showing glimpses of the thoughtful, moderate leadership he promised. Perhaps North Carolina might still get the rest of what it voted for.

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