The Follies

The Follies

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An important question McCrory hasn’t answered about the pay to play scandal

The troubling pay to play scandal swirling around the McCrory Administration shows no signs of going away.

Next week a legislative committee has scheduled hearings on the private prison contract extended for McCrory donor Graeme Keith, Sr. after Keith said at a meeting called by McCrory that he expected something in return for his campaign contributions.

McCrory’s defense is that he didn’t hear Keith mention his contributions because he was engaged in a side conversation and he would have walked out if he had.

But almost everyone else at the meeting heard the remarks. They were included in a memo about the meeting and Keith repeated them in another meeting and a telephone conversation with McCrory’s Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry, a former FBI agent.

The question for McCrory that has yet to be answered is if he was so offended by the remarks that he would have walked out of the meeting, why did his Budget Director Lee Roberts and Chief of Staff Thomas Stith continue to work so hard to make sure that Keith’s contract was extended?

Commentators and analysts from the Right and Left have agreed that Keith’s remarks should have not only have ended the meeting but ended his chance to continue his $3 million contract with the state.

But the opposite happened. Reports in the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer show that Roberts and Stith worked hard to make sure Keith kept his contract, over the objections of Perry and others at the Department of Public Safety.

Why did McCrory let that happen? Somebody needs to ask him.

It’s also worth noting that the original story that first reported the scandal included interviews with most people who were involved, except Director of Prisons David Guice, who according to the news accounts the McCrory Administration has refused to allow to talk to the media.

Somebody needs to ask McCrory about that too. He is the guy who campaigned for transparency and against the “culture of corruption in Raleigh” after all.

McCrory brags about helping businesses…and hurting workers

It’s not like McCrory is hard to find. He’s always cutting a ribbon or boasting about something somewhere. This week he was a news conference touting the fact that the balance in the state’s unemployment reserve fund had reached a billion dollars.

But McCrory’s real point was to remind voters that his administration was responsible for paying back the state’s $2.4 billion unemployment debt to the federal government ahead of schedule and making the state’s unemployment compensation system a “shining success of the Carolina Comeback” that he said helps business and workers.

The state accumulated the debt during the Great Recession when unemployment claims skyrocketed and quickly exhausted the inadequate reserves in the state’s account.

McCrory also announced that the billion dollar reserve means a tax break for businesses, as the surcharge enacted to help to retire the debt now ends.

What he didn’t say was that two-thirds of the debt was repaid by workers through benefit cuts. And unlike the surcharge on business, the benefit cuts remain.

North Carolina now has the 47th lowest unemployment benefit level in the country, the shortest duration of benefits, and as several news accounts pointed out, it ranks 49th in the percentage of unemployed workers who receive benefits at all.

That ought to be something to be ashamed of not something to celebrate.

A lot of laid off workers and their families surely have a different view of the alleged Carolina Comeback.

Tillis wants to ends health care coverage for millions

Senator Thom Tillis apparently wants to end health care coverage for several hundred thousand people in North Carolina and millions more across the country.

Tillis said in a recent public conversation with the leader of the group Americans for the Prosperous that he would like to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act except for the parts that allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26 and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Tillis’ remarks come as national reports say a growing number of Republican senators are having second thoughts about repealing the health care law and taking coverage away from millions of people who have gained it under the ACA.

Some of the Republicans are in states that have expanded Medicaid, something that Gov. McCrory has still refused to endorse. But North Carolina has been among the leaders in the nation for the number people who have signed up for coverage under the law.

Tillis apparently wants to take that coverage away.