Former Gov. Pat McCrory spoke to the morning session of the 2017 Civitas Institute Conservative Leadership Conference Saturday talking about some of the things he is most proud of from his time as governor.
And he did not discount running for the office again.
McCrory said that he will stay involved in some fashion, whether it be as a candidate or not.
During the session at the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley, McCrory told the assembled crowd, “I’d like to thank y’all for allowing me the great honor to be the 74th governor of the greatest state in the United States of America and I’m gonna stay involved one way or the other.”
In an interview after the session, McCrory mentioned a 2020 run by name, but said that he will wait to make a decision about what his political role moving forward will be.
McCrory spoke to the session about a couple of the things he was most proud of as governor, including tax reform and changing the way roads were built in the state, even if it meant pulling power from himself.
“When I first came into office how we did the tax reform, there was a huge dispute between the Senate and the House,” he said. “The Senate was eliminating all income taxes, the House was a little bit more moderate in that area, and there was a big struggle between the House and Senate. We knew we had to get major tax reform, and the media and many others predicted that there was no way that Republicans would agree on tax reform. And this is where it’s good to have a Republican in the governor’s office …
“We had this dispute in the House and the Senate, and people predicted that we’re not gonna make an agreement, it’s impossible. So what [Former State Budget Director Art Pope] and I did was we brought about 15 leaders from both the House and the Senate into the old state capital building away from the state legislative building and into one of the older historic buildings, to bring the importance and magnitude of this issue. If you mess this up, you’re not gonna make history, and that’s why we brought them into that building. And then we closed the doors and got them cheap sandwiches of bread and cheese and we basically said we’re not leaving this room until we get an agreement.
“And let me tell you what broke the [impasse], it was an idea from Art Pope. He said, how about this, we will set up triggers for benchmarks that instead of automatically cutting all the taxes that we want, we’ll set out a scale over the next two to three, years; that is, revenue comes in as we predicted it would, we will then cut income taxes even more that next year. So we didn’t do what Kansas did, what the media predicted, the billion dollars in deficits and so forth and so on. We set up triggers on certain levels of revenue once we started cutting taxes, and guess what happened the first, second, and third year, we got more revenue in the state budget from cutting income taxes than we did with higher income taxes.”
McCrory said he was proud that North Carolina moved from having one of the highest income tax rates to one of the lowest, among states that have an income tax.
He also said he was proud that at the beginning of his term there were fights over how to pay for the deficit and at the end now there are fights over how to use the $600 million budget surplus.
“They’re fighting over what to do with the surplus, and when I came in they were not having that fight, so I’m very proud of that,” he said.
Another proud accomplishment for McCrory was transitioning road construction from a politically driven process where which roads are built or repaired is left to powerful politicians to decide and installing a formula where the numbers decide which roads are built.
“In the past 50 years we built roads based on where the powerful politicians lived, Republicans and Democrats, and I said that’s not the way to do it because it is inefficient, and we are often building roads where we don’t need it and it was costing hundreds upon hundreds of million dollars of inefficiency by politicizing road building,” he said
“So what we did was set a formula based upon traffic safety and economic development. neither the bureaucrats decided nor the politicians decided, the numbers decided where we build roads in North Carolina. We literally built 30 percent more roads once we took the politics out of road building. I am concerned that in the future both my Republican friends and my Democrat friends are going to want to go back to the old system. In fact if we did not have that formula right now Gov. (Roy) Cooper would be selling roads throughout the state and frankly some of our legislators would be selling roads throughout the state, and making deals.”
McCrory, while he is disappointed in the outcome of the extremely close election for governor, said he has not resigned himself to fading from state politics quite yet.