McCrory: Snowstorm to dent NC economy
Posted February 14, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — This week's double-dose of snow and ice across much of North Carolina likely will put a crimp in the state economy, Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday.
In providing an update to the state's response efforts, McCrory also said his administration plans review policies and procedures, ranging from flexibility in making up lost school days to policies regarding state employees getting to work in bad weather to how abandoned cars are moved during a storm.
"I hoped the storm was going to underwhelm us. It did not," he said. "It met our expectations and even exceeded our expectations."
Two days of snow, sleet and freezing rain left many roads impassable, and state officials urged people to stay home. As a result, retailers closed up shop and thousands of hourly workers lost wages, which the governor said would cut into sales tax and income tax collections, respectively.
"We anticipate a negative impact on revenue coming into the state coffers over the next several months," McCrory said. "That could have a long-term budget impact on North Carolina."
State employees were some of those workers who stayed home during the storm, and the governor said he wants to look at state personnel policies to take the onus off the workers in deciding when to try to go to the office.
He called the policies "extremely bureaucratic and also punitive" and said decisions on who should go to work and who should stay home during and after inclement weather should be more centralized.
Another bureaucratic point McCrory said he wants to address is how vehicles abandoned during a storm are moved from state roads. Drivers left scores of cars and trucks on the side of highways and streets across the Triangle Wednesday during the height of the storm, and many were later towed.
He said the state policy of when to tow abandoned vehicles doesn't always match up with policies in cities and counties, and more coordination is needed.
Another storm-related budget impact McCrory noted was possibly needing to shift money from the state reserve to help the state Department of Transportation cover any shortfalls in its recovery budget through the end of June. The DOT has already burned through $36 million to $38 million of its $40 million annual budget for storm response, some of which was spent following heavy rains in western North Carolina last summer and in earlier snowstorms.
The governor said he plans to meet with State Board of Education members and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson next week to see if the state can grant school districts any flexibility in making up days lost to snowstorms. Schools are required to have 180 days or 1,025 hours of class each year, and many districts have lost a week or more of class time in the past month because of bad weather.
In Wake County, students at year-round schools will have their first makeup day Saturday, while traditional- and modified-calendar schools will have class Monday to make up one day. The Wake County Board of Education will meet next week to work out more makeup dates.
Durham Public Schools administrators haven't yet decided when their makeup days will be.
McCrory also criticized high school and college athletic conferences for trying to squeeze in games during the storm, noting some Coastal Carolina players were stuck on a bus Thursday night. Also, decision to postpone a Wednesday night game between Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was delayed for hours as the storm raged.
At one point, McCrory's news conference veered off a discussion of storm response when reporters began questioning the governor about a coal ash spill in the Dan River from a shuttered Duke Energy power plant and his ties to Duke, where he worked for nearly three decades.
McCrory tried to shift the questions to state Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials before angrily cutting them off and returning to weather-related questions.
"Listen, I'm concerned about the public safety right now," he said.