Pat McCrory and company rolled out a $1 billion transportation plan last week. What took him so long? Imagine how different his tenure could have been if he had rolled into Raleigh pledging to update infrastructure in the parts of the state most hurt by free trade treaties and the Great Recession.

McCrory ran for office for four years, starting the day after he got beat by Bev Perdue in 2008. The recession was already beginning to take its toll and, ultimately, left North Carolina in worse straits than most other states. We desperately needed a jobs program and we just as desperately needed to update our rural infrastructure. Sure would have been nice if he had been thinking about what the state needed during those four years instead of just thinking about winning the election.

What if, during his inauguration speech, McCrory had said, “We need to fix state government and we need to get our financial house in order. But first, we need to help our fellow North Carolinians who are hurting the most, fix our infrastructure in the parts of the state where industry has fled and get North Carolina working again.” As a newly elected governor, he would have been given the benefit of the doubt and likely had broad popular support.

Instead, McCrory got knocked around by the legislature, denied health care to half a million people and kicked people unable to find work off of unemployment insurance. He didn’t come into office thinking about how to help people. I’m not sure he came into office thinking about doing anything. Like Thom Tillis he just wanted to be something, not accomplish something. What a wasted opportunity.

Now, he faces huge political obstacles. His opponents are skeptical. They believe it’s a political ploy to hold onto his rural base that’s shrinking and not recovering. The senate is angry. Once again, they weren’t consulted, which puts the whole program in political danger before it’s gotten off the ground.

In addition, McCrory doesn’t have the political capital he needs. His approval rating is in the low 40s at best and as many people disapprove as approve of his job performance. Most political leaders get their signature programs passed in their first year in office before they’ve taken many political punches–and McCrory looks like a punching bag.

Instead of a transportation program, McCrory should have rolled it out as a jobs program. Right now, our unemployment is going up, not down, and all of the happy talk about a Carolina Comeback has been just that–happy talk. Our tax revenues are down and median income is flat. We need something to get us going again. Maybe a billion dollars in infrastructure investment can do it. What a shame he didn’t announce it in January 2013.

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