Opinion: Daily Journal

Liberals change subject to H.B. 2

Do you want to know why the Left has tried to make North Carolina politics into an “all House Bill 2, all the time” zone? Here are some reasons:

• Since mid-2013, when Gov. Pat McCrory’s first budgets and other policy priorities were enacted, North Carolina’s gross domestic product has expanded by an average annual increase of 2.7 percent, after adjusting for state-by-state price changes. That’s one of the fastest rates of real GDP growth in the country.

• Since mid-2013, average personal income per person in North Carolina has also risen faster than the national and Southeastern averages. In each of the last 10 full quarters of data, in fact, either our income growth, our GDP growth, or both have exceeded the national average.

• Since mid-2013, North Carolina employers have added nearly 265,000 net new jobs while the broadest measure of unemployment — the U-6 rate, which includes discouraged workers and involuntary part-timers — has dropped by 4.6 percentage points. Once again, our performance on these measures has exceeded the national and regional averages.

• After passage of the 2013-14 state budget and tax cuts, McCrory and the Republican-led General Assembly were subjected to blistering attack by liberal critics who predicted billion-dollar deficits. Instead, state government has run substantial budget surpluses each year. These critics weren’t just mistaken. They were massively, embarrassingly wrong.

• Starting with that initial 2013-14 budget, average teacher pay in North Carolina has gone up by about 15 percent — one of the largest teacher-pay raises in the country. To claim otherwise, liberal critics have blamed McCrory (who took office in early 2013) or legislative Republicans (who assumed their majorities in early 2011) for teacher-pay decisions made in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

• Since the GOP took over the legislature, state spending on highway construction and maintenance has grown by hundreds of millions of dollars a year, thanks to a combination of setting better priorities and changing both the calculation and deployment of gas taxes and licensing fees. By my calculation, state-funded highway expenditures now make up 60 percent of the total transportation budget, up from 48 percent in FY 2010-11 (the rest is made up of federal road funds and non-highway spending).

Given these promising trends, wouldn’t you try to change the subject if your goal was to turn out the state’s incumbent leadership?

I’m not saying that all the news in North Carolina is unambiguously good. I’m not even saying that the good news I described above has unambiguous political or policy implications. For example, is it reasonable to attribute the state’s recent economic gains entirely to the decisions of our governor and legislature? Should they have raised teacher pay even faster than they did over the past four years, to compensate for previous (and arguably unavoidable) declines during the Great Recession? Should they have devoted even more money than they did to addressing traffic congestion, road safety, and transportation access, even if it required a large gas-tax increase or bond issue?

To debate such weighty matters, however, would be to stay on political territory that, in general, is favorable to the Republicans. We all know that if North Carolina’s economy were relatively weak, its state finances were in a shambles, and its education and transportation programs were getting scant attention from state leaders, the Left would want the state’s political conversation to be about these issues.

Because the facts are otherwise, liberals prefer to focus on H.B. 2. They can’t even say they’re doing so because of its potential economic effects, because we also all know that much of the external pressure on North Carolina from corporations, business associations, and the national media has been facilitated, encouraged, and often instigated by left-wing interest groups and Democratic politicians, very much including McCrory’s opponent in the gubernatorial race, Roy Cooper.

I actually disagree with some provisions of H.B. 2 and would like state policymakers to revisit them in the future. But the Left’s fixation on the bill is wildly, indefensibly disproportionate. They think it will determine the outcome of the 2016 elections. They’re wrong about that, too.

John Locke Foundation chairman John Hood is the author of Catalyst: Jim Martin and the Rise of North Carolina Republicans.

  • ProudlyUnaffiliated

    The NC Demorat agenda is to queer the bathrooms. Great, just what we always wanted.

  • Mike Butler

    In order to gain any political headway, the left has to change the subject and to lie. Why am I not surprised? The facts don’t feed their narrative, so they jump on a diversion, fixate on it and grossly exaggerate its effects, which are dwarfed by the #CarolinaComeback.

  • casey

    About those non-HB2 issues…

    •NC’s 2.7% CAGR in GDP for the 2013Q2-2015Q4 time period Hood mentions is behind CA (3.7%), CO (3.7%), DE (2.8%), TX (3.4%), UT (2.9%), and WA (3.0%) nationally and behind FL (3.2%), GA (2.8%), and SC (2.8%) in the Southeast. NC’s performance is nothing spectacular.

    •NC’s 3.7% CAGR in Per Capita Personal Income for the 2013Q2-2015Q4 time period is behind CA (4.3%), CT (3.8%), ME (3.8%), MA (4.0%), MI (4.3%), NH (4.6%), NJ (3.9%), NM (3.8%), OR (4.2%), RI (4.2%), and tied w/WA (3.7%) nationally. NC is also behind KY (4.1%) but tied w/GA (3.7%), SC (3.7%), and TN (3.7%) in the Southeast. NC’s performance is nothing spectacular.
    NC’s hourly earnings increased 8.3% from when Governor McCrory took office in Jan 2013 until May 2016 but that’s not as good as GA (13.6%), SC (11.1%), VA (9.6%), TN (8.5%), or AL (8.4%). NC’s performance is nothing spectacular.

    •NC’s 7.0% job growth from Jan 2013 to May 2016 isn’t as good as FL (11.1%), GA (9.3%), SC (8.6%), & TN (7.5%) in the Southeast. NC’s performance is nothing spectacular.
    9,867 total layoffs were reported via NC WARN in 2013, 8,686 in 2014, and 5,855 in 2015. 8,784 layoffs have been reported SO FAR in 2016 and we aren’t even halfway through.
    NC’s U-6 rate has improved but the net improvement ties NC with two other states for 13th best U-6 improvement in the US so NC’s performance is nothing spectacular.
    NC is the only state in the Southeast to have had a net increase in discouraged workers since McCrory took office with 3.2% more discouraged workers in 2016Q1 than 2013Q1.

    •NC spent $8.19b on education in 2008-09 ($9.14b in 2016 $ if adjusted for inflation) but NC spent only $8.03b ($8.14b in 2016 $) in 2015-16. NC spends approximately $1b less on education each year with McCrory than before the recession if considering inflation – with a net gain of 61,000 students.
    NC spent more per pupil before the recession ($5,703.70 in 2008-09) than with McCrory ($5,390.12 in 2013-14 & $5,638.39 in 2014-15) even without adjusting for inflation.
    NC spent $67 per student (ADM) on textbooks in 2008-09 before the recession but less than $15 per student in McCrory’s first 2 years and less than $30 per student this year.
    NC became the first state in 30 years to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit which helped 900k of NC’s poorest.
    McCrory and the NC GOP have also increased sales and service taxes at the expense of poor/working class people who must spend their entire paychecks.
    McCrory and the NC GOP also cut unemployment insurance to the worst in the US… and then did it again.

    •Mr. Hood doesn’t want to start analyzing teacher pay with the 2012-13 budget because McCrory’s 2013-14 budget was the worst in at least 30 years if considering NC’s rank (#47) or pay as a percentage of the US average (79%). McCrory signed the 2013-14 budget and is responsible for NC’s worst year. As a result, starting from 2013-14 would show a greater improvement than starting with the more sensible pre-McCrory comparison. Even when using his own years however, Hood is either mistaken or lying. NC’s average teacher pay is estimated to be $50,186 in 2016-17 but was $45,737 in 2012-13 and $44,990 in 2013-14. This means teacher pay will have increased by 9.73% since 2012-13 or by 11.55% since 2013-14 – neither are close to Hood’s claim of 15%.
    NC’s average teacher pay was $31,167 in 1996-97. Roy Cooper became Senate Majority Leader the next year and average pay had improved to $41,480 by 2000-01. The 33.09% increase in average teacher pay over 4 years of Cooper’s leadership is FAR more impressive than the 9.73% increase in average pay over the past 4 years of McCrory.
    NC’s teacher pay ranked #43 in both the year before Cooper became NC’s Senate Majority Leader and the year before McCrory became NC’s Governor. Cooper worked with a Republican House and Governor Hunt to improve that rank to #22 in just 3 years. Under McCrory, NC’s rank dropped to #47 and ended up at #41 after 3 years.
    Adjusting NC’s teacher pay for inflation to 2016 $ shows average teacher pay has been over $50k in every single Democratic budget since Cooper’s leadership in 1997 but below $50k in every school year since Republicans took over in 2011-12.
    Perhaps that has something to do with why the percentage of teachers leaving for other states has increased from 0.32% in the last year of Democratic control (2010-11) to 0.76% in 2013-14 and 1.07% in 2014-15 with McCrory.

    For anyone unfamiliar with Mr. Hood:
    Hood is a propagandist of dubious integrity (and skill) so his claims should be taken with a skeptical grain of salt. He gets paid a hefty sum by his conservative benefactor (and adopted Koch brother) Art Pope. He is tasked with selecting the selective data for the propaganda he & the Pope propaganda network churn out.

    • ProudlyUnaffiliated

      We are here because the Demorats ruled NC corruptly for over a 100 years and ran it into the ground. How many do you still have in jail nowadays? Black, Decker, Easley, Perdue, Edwards, Phipps and so many more….