The General Assembly of 2013-14 was slash-and-burn, aggressive and merciless when it came to restructuring the dynamics of North Carolina. Their tenacity sparked a major backlash, manifesting in the Moral Monday movement. Even though 2014 was a GOP wave year nationally, NC was the only state in the South which saw Democrats gain seats in the legislature. While the leader of the State House, Thom Tillis, defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, it was the narrowest win for Republicans in a U.S. Senate race that night.
Now that the GOP has stamped its ideological mark on the state, they’re retreating to basic governing. That means not a whole lot of sexy headlines, panicked editorials, and time on late-night comedy shows – the latter of which Roy Cooper says was a motivation for his running for governor.
Instead, we’re seeing a kinder, gentler legislature. The GOP has followed political best practice and got the most controversial stuff out of the way early on. Case in point: the redistricting of the Wake County Commission. There’s still some hot-button issues that remain, but those are fewer in number.
Two years ago, it was cut, cut, cut. Now, it’s spend, spend, spend. As Rep. Craig Horn said: “This is the first time I’ve been here I get to talk about what we’re adding, not what we’re cutting.” The draft budget from the State House adds over a $1 billion dollars in new government spending, including raises for teachers and state employees and funds for emergency reserves and economic incentives. In addition, they want to bring back historic preservation tax credits and allocate $60 million to grants for film production companies. Governor McCrory wanted only $10 million.
To be sure, raises for state employees and teachers aren’t likely to arouse the wrath of liberal groups like in 2013, even though they’ll complain the budget doesn’t go far enough. But the higher spending is causing consternation in conservative ranks. Americans for Prosperity sent out an e-mail blast opposing the bill. Their biggest concern seems to be that too many tax incentives, in particular solar credits, are being extended.
It’s likely the Senate will propose something completely different, probably more in line with what AFP wants. One thing’s for sure, though: with 2016 being a presidential year and with Gov. McCrory up for reelection, the “reinventing North Carolina” approach taken by the General Assembly in 2013 is on the backburner, for now.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.