In studying the chief executives of governments, the power of the “bully pulpit” is often mentioned as a critical tool for any political leader.
Akin to the presidential versions, State of the State addresses should not be judged for specific details (there’s plenty of time and energy to expended on that through the legislative process); rather, how effective these addresses are in conveying a sense of the chief executive’s priorities and agenda.
And any effective chief executive will present a coherent, succinct, yet ambitious, slate of initiatives. Just in the past two weeks, we’ve seen that at both the national and state levels.
While these addresses can be a “grocery list” in appearance, the more successful versions have distinct parts that make up the whole. Governor McCrory’s address could be best described as the three E’s: economy, education, and efficiency in state government.
As to the efficiency component, it seemed like the governor echoed the president’s State of the Union address by acknowledging that resources were limited, and that instead of “big” government, it should be “smart” government in operation.
Another apparent commonality between the two chief executives was the emphasis on infrastructure to enhancing the economy. In the president’s address, he noted that upgrades in areas such as energy, pipelines, and schools were needed to sustain a new economic approach.
When it came to North Carolina’s economy, McCrory made the surprising comparison to being an “Eisenhower Republican,” the president who created the national interstate highway system, originally designed to aid military transportation at the beginnings of the Cold War, but now seen as the arteries of our transportation system.
If McCrory takes an Eisenhower approach to creating new highways of technology and information delivery, especially in connecting economic and educational activities across the state into a broadband system, he would lay a similar infrastructure for future growth.
But when it came to perhaps the biggest battle he will face, Governor McCrory was more general in tone and descriptors about his plans for tax reform.
While he wants a tax code that is, in his words, “simple,” “competitive,” “modern,” “pro-growth,” and “rewards people & businesses that produce and make things,” we didn’t hear the deeper level of what a new revenue system would look like: Whether ditching altogether the state’s income tax, a new sales tax to cover more goods and services, or some moderate combination thereof.
We will get a better sense of the specific numbers approach when he releases his budget in the coming month, and that will be where the hard choices of arriving at true priorities and details will emerge.
For those continuing their quest in figuring out whether this was the “moderate mayor from Mecklenburg” or the “rabid ideological wolf in moderate sheep’s clothing,” the lack of any attention to socially conservative issues should give some signal that this was more the pragmatic, business-minded approach to governing that harkened back to his Charlotte days.
Of course, having to work with a Democratically-control Charlotte City Council in a growing sea of blue voters would do that for any viable Republican, but with the General Assembly very willing to chart its own course, can the governor exert his leadership over his own party who may push harder-edge social issues that His Excellency all but avoided in his State of the State?