Um, no indeed

Now why would the state’s Secretary of DHHS blame this on the Insurance Commissioner? Because it is unpopular? Because he’s a Democrat? Because his title has the word insurance in it?

From this morning’s Under the Dome via a story in NC Health News

When challenged by a doctor on the decision not to expand the government health insurance to about 500,000 working-class people, Wos said state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin made the decision.

Um, no.

That decision came from the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory, who hired Wos.

For the record, the Department of Insurance backed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

NC Health News — Wos Says Decision to Not Expand Medicaid Was Goodwin’s Call

The NC trend is less Democrats, more reliable Democratic voters

Registration numbers have been a focus of late, especially in the battleground states.
I can’t speak for how the numbers work in other states, but I do know that if you think that lower numbers of Democrats in North Carolina mean less Democratic votes, you’d be wrong.
The quirky trend of the Old North State for the past two decades or so is that the people migrating here tend to be more reliable Democratic voters than the natives. There was a very good Public Policy Polling study of this in 2008 and what they found holds today. It’s also likely accelerating. The most recent PPP look at the presidential race has the president leading his challenger by a huge margin among the people who have been here ten years or less.

From this month’s Exile on Jones Street Column in the Indy, which came out this week:

Following the rout of 2010, GOP strategists maintained that Obama’s win in North Carolina was an anomaly driven by unusually high turnout. They pointed to a drop in Democratic registrations.

But as the PPP study points out, the people moving here, even independents, are proving to be more reliable Democratic voters than the natives. Born and bred Tar Heels came of age in what was historically a one-party state; if you wanted a say in legislative or county commissioner races, you registered as a Democrat so you could vote in the primary.

That same dynamic identified in 2008 is at play this year. The recent PPP poll on the presidential race notes that Obama and Romney are tied 47-47 for the native vote. The president’s lead can be attributed to an edge among non-native voters, including a 66-to-27-percent lead among those who’ve been here less than 10 years.

There’s a lot of things to note in the registration outlook and the demographic changes, but one that gets little mention is that all the recruiting the state is doing and the new jobs coming to the state – our rapid growth over the past 30 years – is starting to have a real impact on out politics.

The land grabs behind fracking

Reuters has been killing it lately in its investigation of fracking finances, specifically the various deals done by Chesapeake, a major player in the fracking industry, and the company’s high flying CEO Aubrey McClendon.

Special Report: Chesapeake and rival plotted to suppress land prices

Exclusive: Chesapeake documents detail how CEO fuses personal, corporate interests

Special Report: The lavish and leveraged life of Aubrey McClendon

Their latest piece looks at land deals and fracking. Protecting landowners from predatory leases or behaviors on the part of land companies has become one of the chief concerns raised about fracking in North Carolina. The image portrayed in the hearings – and one I’m sure pushed by the oil and gas industry – is that there are a few bad actors in the business and they can be dealt with by adding more protections in lease requirements, mineral rights purchases, land buys and so on.

But what if there’s something bigger than just a few unscrupulous landmen? What if the two biggest players in the industry get together to suppress land prices in an entire region? What if the bad actors are playing the lead role?

In emails between Chesapeake and Encana Corp, Canada’s largest natural gas company, the rivals repeatedly discussed how to avoid bidding against each other in a public land auction in Michigan two years ago and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners here.

In one email, dated June 16, 2010, McClendon told a Chesapeake deputy that it was time “to smoke a peace pipe” with Encana “if we are bidding each other up.” The Chesapeake vice president responded that he had contacted Encana “to discuss how they want to handle the entities we are both working to avoid us bidding each other up in the interim.” McClendon replied: “Thanks.”

That exchange – and at least a dozen other emails reviewed by Reuters – could provide evidence that the two companies violated federal and state laws by seeking to keep land prices down, antitrust lawyers said.

Perdue-Faison primary looking more likely

Faison at a jobs press conference at the General Assembly last fall.

WRAL’s Laura Leslie has the breakdown of what is shaping up as a likely run for Governor by Rep. Bill Faison, who just held a press conference announcing, among other things, that he’s loaned himself a cool 500K.

Faison has been around the state on a regular basis of late pushing a jobs plan.
Whether this is primary bid or getting ready should Perdue choose not to run (her campaign says she is) 500K is nothing to sneeze at.


Another governor’s office, another indictment.
Via the N&O:

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has said that Perdue, a former lieutenant governor and state lawmaker, is not a target of the probe, but today’s indictment reached into the campaign’s inner circle.

The key phrase in this story:

The new charges, all felonies,

Perdue responds (sorta) in a statement. Via WRAL:

At the District Attorney’s request, while those matters are pending, I will not comment on the specific charges or any aspect of the investigation. I will, however, reiterate what I made clear at the beginning of the investigation, and what the investigation has confirmed: as a citizen, a candidate for public office, and an elected official, I have strived to follow the rules and laws. I am proud of my record, and I remain sharply focused on strengthening our schools, creating jobs and moving North Carolina forward.

Perdue fading

McCrory up in latest polling for the first time as Bev Perdue’s campaign veers.
To me, Perdue, her peeps and maybe the party have not taken McCrory seriously enough, relying on an airwave campaign and not clearly articulating where she wants to take NC.
Not showing up at the recent debate was an error. Most voters are just now focusing on the state races.
This year, a politician of any stripe can’t be seen as phoning it in.
(Please note that I will now suspend the use of ‘phoning it in’ for the rest of the campaign.)
Via PPP:

March and September have been marked by similar problems of message discipline for the Perdue campaign: attacks ads that go all over the place without really establishing a coherent theme that hits home with voters, a lack of visibility from Perdue herself in her ads, etc.

TWC: Where the rubber meets the road

From this week’s column, some thoughts about incentivising folks

The General Assembly is contemplating a return engagement in Raleigh next week with the intent of taking up Gov. Mike Easley’s veto of an incentives bill for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

Easley’s objection, which reportedly came as a shocking twist to legislators after a two-year negotiation over the package, was that the threshold for the number of jobs the bill would protect was reduced.

Easley points out that Goodyear could lay off 25 percent of its workforce – 700 or more jobs — and still pocket the cash. In his succinct veto message, the governor does not mince words.

He opens with: “House Bill 1761 would set a dangerous precedent for North Carolina’s economic development policy and is not fair to her taxpayers.”

Backers of the bill, which passed 98-11 in the House and 41-5 in the Senate, dispute the governor’s premise and say the number of jobs was a compromise reached after advocates for a Bridgestone Firestone plant in Wilson raised concerns about the job threshold.

In raising his objection and then offering an alternative plan for helping businesses, the governor has not only inspired the return of the Legislature, he’s also touched off another debate on the value and repercussions of incentives.

“Never in the history of the state,” Easley says in his veto message, “has anyone given a company up to $40 million and allowed them to lay off hundreds of workers.”

Not yet, anyway. But it’s easy to see that in the current (ahem) “pro-business” climate, expanding criteria for payouts to corporations could be a hard trend to stop. It’s also rife with pitfalls, not the least of which is the fact that PAC donations are the mother’s milk of politics.

The intersection of corporate incentives and corporate donations is not a pretty place and can lead to a distorted sense of what constitutes an “incentive” and a need for one.

Goodyear, for instance, just recently announced that it’s paying down nearly $1 billion in debt and planning new plants overseas. The Wall Street Journal’s headline on the story after its latest quarterly report in early August is “Goodyear profit surges on cost-cutting, global sales.”

Still, they apparently would like an average of $5 each from every man, woman and child in North Carolina to help modernize their plant here. They’ll likely get something close to what they want, and in doing so could set in motion efforts by scores of others seeking similar dispensation.

Before we go down that road, though, bring on another debate over the consequences.

If you look at the latest Forbes survey of best places for business, this state ranks very favorably in the business-cost category (we’re 6th), which takes into account taxes and labor and energy costs, and in regulatory environment (we’re 2nd), which measures regulatory and tort climate, incentives, transportation and bond ratings. Where we rank lowest (30th) is in the quality-of-life category, which is an index of schools, health, crime, cost of living and poverty rates.

When the state really ramped up its incentive efforts about ten years ago, they were sold as a necessary evil to preserve jobs and recruit new industries to replace the ones we were losing. A better business climate, we were told, would benefit us all. Since then, incentives have certainly improved the bottom line for corporations in North Carolina, but the ripple effect has yet to reach us all.