Daily dose

Daily dose: $1 billion budget shortfall edition


North Carolina’s budget year is a mere two months old and already there are annoyances that could be signs of huge problems in a few months. Total general fund revenues are $200.4 million short where they were at this point last year, according to the Monthly Financial Report for August 2014, issued by State Controller’s Office on Tuesday.

If the current trend continues, it is likely legislators will be dealing with a budget hole of $725 million to as much as $1.2 billion. This past legislative session, the General Assembly had to confront a $500 million shortfall as they struggled to meet a variety of election-year spending demands, including pay raises for teachers and other state workers. Most state agencies started the year already in an austerity mode and it won’t be surprising, if by the end of September or October, memos will be dispatched from Lee Roberts, Gov. Pat McCrory’s new budget director, with belt-tightening orders and restrictions on state employee travel.

McCrory will likely try to avoid doing anything before election day, so it won’t have an impact on the various campaigns, particularly for fellow Mecklenburg County Republican Thom Tillis, the speaker of the state House of Representatives who is locked in a very close race for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan.

Don’t be surprised when legislative leaders and key budget analysts declare that it is still too early in the process to say whether any trends are in place and that they expect revenues to increase in late October and into November and December with holiday shopping and lucrative year-end bonuses. The major culprits for this latest revenue shortfalls are individual income taxes running $225.5 million behind last year along with franchise fees which are running $51.3 million behind the same point last year. Tax cuts enacted by the legislature have had a major impact that haven’t been made up with predicted economic growth in other areas.

In August 2012 the state collected $816.5 million in personal income taxes. This past August, the total was $680.3 million – a difference of $136 million. Broadening of the state sales tax has, over the same period, brought in additional $124.6 million – still not equal to the income tax cuts, including reductions in the corporate income tax.

McCrory aims to stump for Tillis in US Senate race (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says he plans to do anything he can to help fellow Republican Thom Tillis' election campaign for the U.S. Senate in November, and will campaign for state legislators as time allows. McCrory said Tuesday he's planning to actively campaign for Tillis. The governor noted he endorsed the top lawmaker in the state House before the Republican primary election in May. Tillis and McCrory are both from the Charlotte area and have been close allies on most legislative issues since the governor took office last year. McCrory says he's getting many requests from legislative candidates to help their campaigns. The governor says he'll try to support as many as possible around his work schedule, but points out North Carolina is a big state.

Daily Dose: OTC edition

Tillis’ over-the-counter birth control plan wouldn’t increase access (Carolina Mercury) -- When House Speaker Thom Tillis was asked during last week’s U.S. Senate debate whether or not he agreed with the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, the Speaker had a neatly packaged response ready. According to the Republican candidate, Hobby Lobby, which said that corporations with religious beliefs can deny employees contraceptive coverage, was not about birth control, but about religious freedom. On the supposedly unrelated topic of birth control, however, Tillis was quick to note that he supports broadening access to contraception

More confusion among GOP leadership on teacher pay after McCrory letter gives yet another ‘average’ increase number (WRAL-TV) -- When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a "substantial" pay raise that amounted to "an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers." That might have been exciting news, except that for more than a month legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figures as "simple math" in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign. For educators like Michelle Pettey, a first-grade teacher at Wake County's Brier Creek Elementary School, that "simple math" doesn't add up; 5.5 percent doesn't equal 7 percent and neither number matches the smaller-than-expected pay bump that showed up in her first paycheck of the year. "No teacher can figure out what happened," said Pettey, a teacher with 16 years in the classroom who said her actual raise worked out to be something like 1.39 percent. Josh Ellis, a spokesman for Gov. McCrory, said the difference between the 5.5 percent number and the 7 percent number is a difference in accounting.

Daily Dose: Tillis-dismisses-his-mansplaining edition

Tillis dismisses 'mansplaining' charges (Politico) -- Thom Tillis, the Republican running for a North Carolina Senate seat that could well decide the majority in the Senate, has been pilloried since last week’s debate by Democrats who see him as a condescending “man-splainer” who played into gender stereotypes. But in his first comments on the controversy, the Republican state House speaker was unrepentant in a sit-down interview on the campaign trail, chalking up the firestorm to Democrats playing gender politics to boost Sen. Kay Hagan.“It’s just silly,” he said during a lunch stop this weekend with supporters over barbecue, fried oysters and chicken livers. “We’re talking about the future of the greatest nation on the earth, and this is what we’re going to?”

Daily dose: McCollum edition

No GOP apologies for nasty McCollum ad (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Unfortunately, politics requires no shame. Or decency. Or apologies. So I suspect no apology will be forthcoming from the N.C. Republican Party to Henry Lee McCollum or former state Sen. John Snow. The party paid for and mailed a particularly nasty flier during the 2010 election that featured a threatening photo of McCollum, who is black and was serving a life sentence at the time for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. The flier, which also featured a white convict labeled “child killer,” said Snow, a former judge and prosecutor — and death penalty advocate — wanted them to get another chance. “These men committed unspeakable crimes,” the mailer stated, “but when they were on death row, liberal John Snow tried to give them a second chance.” Well, not exactly. Snow did vote in favor of the Racial Justice Act, a 2009 law that allowed murderers and other criminals to appeal to have death sentences converted to life sentences if racial bias during the trial could be proved. The Republican-controlled legislature overturned the act last year.

Tillis counting on 'informed electorate' (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- An informed electorate will deliver a second Republican to the U.S. Senate in November, the Republican candidate told an audience of supporters in Greenville on Saturday. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis made the remark during an hourlong stop at the Pitt County Republican Party headquarters in Greenville to campaign against first-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. “When people know the choices between the two candidates and understand the consequences of allowing Kay Hagan to rubberstamp Barack Obama for another two years, they want a change to people who will be decisive and get things done,” Tillis said.

Daily dose: Money well-spent

Environmentalists’ campaign spending to see huge jump (Washington Post) -- The League of Conservation Voters will spend $25 million in campaign funding this election season, a fivefold increase over what the group devoted to the last midterm elections, LCV President Gene Karpinski said. … The races LCV is targeting — including Senate contests in North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire, as well as the Maine gubernatorial race, where it is opposing Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s reelection, and state legislative races in Oregon and Washington — all involve significant contrasts between the two candidates on climate change and other signature environmental issues.

Daily dose: Gaffes and lies edition

3rd party candidates could tip key Senate races (AP) — A pizza deliveryman in North Carolina, a "libertarian cop" in Kentucky and an Alaska candidate — but not the one who was expected — hope to do what a Kansas businessman did this week: shake up Senate races as third-party candidates, an often-dismissed lot.

Top eight Senate campaign gaffes (The Hill) -- Implying the “traditional population” is white people: North Carolina Republican Senate candidate, N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, challenging vulnerable Sen. Kay Hagan (D), once referred to the “traditional population” of the state as separate from the “African-American population” and the “Hispanic population.” “The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable,” Tillis said. “It's not growing. The African American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population and the other immigrant populations are growing in significant numbers. We've got to resonate with those future voters.” The remarks came in a 2012 interview with Carolina Business Review, but they surfaced in June when the liberal Talking Points Memo found them. "’Traditional’ North Carolinians refers to North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations," Tillis campaign Communications Director Daniel Keylin told TPM by way of explanation. "A lot of the state's recent population growth is from people who move from other states to live, work, and settle down in North Carolina. Thom Tillis for example."

Daily Dose: Dissecting the debate edition


Listening to the Hagan-Tillis U.S. Senate debate on the radio, the following impressions remain to ponder:

  • Did House Speaker Thom Tillis really lecture Kay Hagan on what women think and need? “Sen. Hagan needs to talk to these women and explain why the government has determined a health care policy they were satisfied with is no longer fits the bill and that justifies her broken promises -- promise. … The women who opened up 475,000 (Washington Post said of this claim: “Unlike wine, tired talking points don’t age well”) see cancellation notices are wondering why? I was happy with it. Now I'm not sure if I can keep my same doctor.”
  • Why did Hagan let Tillis lecture her on what women think and need? (mentions of “women” – 24; mentions of “men” – 7)
  • Will Sen. Hagan repeatedly refer to Speaker Tillis as “Tommy” in the next debate? (Mentions of “Kay” – 48; mentions of “Thom” -- 6)
  • Will Speaker Tillis tell people whether he thinks the N.C. minimum wage of $7.50 an hour is too much, just right, not enough or none of your business?
  • Will Sen. Hagan let me keep my doctor or not (does my doctor want to keep me)?

In debate, Hagan says Tillis takes NC backward (AP) -- Sen. Kay Hagan accused Republican challenger Thom Tillis of short-changing education as a leader of the North Carolina legislature on Wednesday night, and he cast her as a rubberstamp for President Barack Obama in the first debate of a close and costly race with national stakes. The hour-long confrontation marked the first major post-Labor Day event of a national struggle between the political parties for Senate control. Republicans must gain six states to win the Senate majority and have long listed North Carolina as a top target. Hagan and Tillis stood 10 feet apart at identical podiums as they exchanged accusations central to a race that public opinion polls rate a toss-up. Tillis recalled Hagan's comments from her successful 2008 campaign, when she criticized GOP incumbent Elizabeth Dole for having voted 92 percent of the time with then-President George W. Bush. And yet, he said, Hagan has sided with Obama 95 percent. "Kay 1.0, Kay 2.0," he said unflatteringly, adding, "At the end of the day we need to say what we mean."

Daily dose: Duh-bate edition

Tillis, Hagan to meet in first NC Senate debate (AP) — Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis are meeting for the first debate of their campaign stretch run, a key contest in the national battle for Senate control.

In advance of debate, Hagan takes aim at Tillis (Greensboro News & Record) -- Sen. Kay Hagan rallied with volunteers and supporters in Greensboro Tuesday night, on the eve of her first debate with challenger Thom Tillis.

Daily Dose: Debate week edition


Candidates WIll Likely "Play It Safe" in First Senate Debate (WFDD-FM) -- Caution may be the key word in the upcoming first debate between incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis. At this point, the race is too close to call, with most polls showing that it is a dead heat. Kenneth Fernandez directs polling at Elon University. He says he’s expecting the candidates to play it safe to avoid making gaffes that could make the rounds on social media and in political ads. “With the Internet and with the TV ads, that one kind of foot-in-the-mouth can be played over and over again,” he says. Fernandez says that unlike a national presidential debate, the effects of senate debates are harder to measure because so few people watch them. But with a race this close, there may be a chance for the candidates to gain some ground.

Banks reliable source of campaign cash for Hagan (McClatchy Newspapers) -- U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has received $962,000 since 2008 from employees and political action committees of industries that are under the jurisdiction of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, where she has served for a large portion of her first term in Congress. The industries are some of the biggest sources of money for both Democrats and Republicans. Historically they’ve been particularly generous to members of the committee and its House of Representatives counterpart, the Financial Services Committee. An examination of the financial sector’s campaign contributions in this year’s highly competitive North Carolina Senate race, tallied and analyzed by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, shows that Hagan’s Republican opponent, Thom Tillis, also has collected large sums from some of the same industries. The sector’s political action committees, however, have given more to Hagan.

Daily Dose: Labor Day edition

Moral Monday movement looks to show its clout at the polls (MSNBC) -- Despite the Moral Monday movement’s righteous rhetoric and grassroots enthusiasm, as November approaches, it faces its toughest test yet: Can it turn the progressive energy that it has generated into actual votes?

In N.C. and 5 other states, ‘Citizens United’ gives GOP 10-point advantage (Washington Post) -- The Supreme Court ruling on political spending has given Republicans an advantage.


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