On Wednesday night, Gov. Pat McCrory will stand before a joint session of the state legislature, with Supreme Court justices, Council of State members, Cabinet secretaries and the rest of the state’s political world watching as he gives his second State of the State speech.
The moment offers McCrory a high-profile beginning for his legislative push for the year – all area television stations are expected to broadcast the speech, which begins at 7 p.m.
Expect a sunny McCrory, who has been speaking of a “Carolina Comeback” in recent months. Also watch to see how he discusses:
Education: The governor has been talking of a multipoint plan on education. It includes: better technology in all classrooms; an assurance that all teachers are paid at least $35,000, a 6 percent increase; performance-based teacher pay; elimination of some testing in the schools; and rewards for schools for teaching “job-ready” skills.
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Transportation: Business leaders are calling the state of infrastructure “ a crisis” and want solutions for more road construction and other projects. McCrory has previously said he wants a bond issue worth $1 billion for roads and bridges, but he has not outlined other details.
Incentives: McCrory has made no secret of his desire to beef up incentive programs, and it comes as the state appears to be in talks with several automakers for what would be major jobs projects. The state has tried in recent years to land big manufacturing projects but lost out.
Taxes: With collections running behind projections – the latest estimate puts the state’s collections about $200 million less than planned – whether the governor talks of taxes, and what he says, will be closely watched. It is likely he will discuss restoring historic preservation tax credits, which have been credited with helping to refurbish old mills and other such properties.
Medicaid: The governor has suggested he wants to expand the government program for insuring the poor. A month ago, McCrory met with President Barack Obama at the White House and raised the possibility of seeking a federal waiver to certain rules on the expansion; other states have received waivers. Republican lawmakers haven’t shown interest in any expansion. Democrats view the issue as important and will be looking to see what the governor says.
And the governor is almost certain to speak of the unemployment rate this week, as he did two years ago. It was high in 2013 – North Carolina had the fifth-highest rate in the nation. Now, the state’s rate is 5.5 percent, tied for 23rd in the U.S.
If the State of the State is a sketch in broad strokes, McCrory’s budget – expected to be proposed by the end of the month – will then color in the details. McCrory and legislative leaders are all Republicans, though that doesn’t translate into unanimity on the issues.
What lawmakers do with the governor’s ideas and proposals will dominate the just-underway legislative session into summer.