Eric Frazier

Does N.C. risk losing its edge to S.C.?

“North Carolina: Nothing Compares.”

That’s the theme of the state’s new marketing campaign, in case you missed the rollout a little while back.

It comes complete with a new logo in which the “NC” is bisected by a pine tree and the “Nothing Compares” catchphrase is bracketed by mountaintops and beach waves.

It’s an homage to the state’s natural beauty, but it clearly intends to project the kind of swaggering self-confidence that comes when you’re leading the pack and nobody’s gaining.

These days, though, it sure seems like the competition’s gaining, if not already pulling ahead in some ways. Just look at South Carolina. Long dismissed here north of the border as the “poor relations” next door, folks in South Carolina must feel their state stacks up pretty well against North Carolina right now.

Consider:

▪  North Carolina’s Republican leaders currently look like the Keystone Cops of the economic development world, bickering ad nauseum about whether we need tax incentives, even as incentives-slurping corporations like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz bypass us. Appears the only thing South Carolina’s GOP leaders fight over is whose county gets the next big plant.

▪  Civil rights protesters are swarming all over North Carolina, not South Carolina. N.C. Republicans spurred the protests by passing the most aggressive voting restrictions in the nation in 2013. “Our Selma,” the state NAACP is calling the voting rights fight.

Meanwhile, S.C. Republican leaders just pulled down the Confederate flag at the state capital, answering a murderer’s plot to start a race war with a stirring demonstration of racial goodwill.

▪  The proud University of North Carolina system has seen its widely respected leader sacked amid accusations of a partisan political purge, and its flagship school wobbled by a damaging academic cheating scandal. The biggest question swirling around the University of South Carolina? Can “the Ol’ Ballcoach” Steve Spurrier keep the Gamecocks from back-sliding into football mediocrity?

Our GOP leaders in Raleigh say there’s no cause for alarm. They’ve lowered taxes. Unemployment is lower. We’re seeing job growth. Those are all welcome developments. But then again, many other states are seeing the same things in the rising national economy – even states that have raised taxes, like Minnesota.

The budget process in Raleigh has been drawn out by a dizzying array of ambitious and conflicting proposals varying GOP factions have injected into the debate.

I’m not against a robust battle of ideas. But if you’re a legislative body, you must eventually compromise and coalesce around one coherent vision. We’re all waiting to see that happen. Given all the bickering so far, who knows?

The catchy new slogan is nice. Pass a new state budget that builds up our educational systems and infrastructure, and you’ll give us something far better to brag about.

Eric Frazier: 704-358-5145, @ericfraz

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