Raleigh, N.C. — Republican candidate for governor Pat McCrory spent a half hour fielding questions from anchor David Crabtree during our "On the Record" broadcast this weekend.
Crabtree interviewed Democrat Walter Dalton on last week's show.
During the show, McCrory pointed several times to energy exploration, both off-shore drilling and inland hydraulic fracturing, as potential sources of jobs and tax revenue for the state.
"We could be doing it right now had we not been sitting on the sidelines," McCrory said of fracking and off-shore drilling. He took a swipe a Dalton, who he says opposes fracking. For his part, Dalton said last week he was skeptical the potential payoff would be enough to attract investors and offset the potential environmental harm.
"I want the private sector to determine if there's gas here," McCrory said.
On this coming weekend's show, Crabtree with speak with Libertarian candidate Barbara Howe.
Other topics covered with McCrory included:
- Taxes: McCrory says he would like to lower corporate and individual income tax rates, but he does not say how would do that. "I'm not going to be pinned down on any one tax plan," he said.
- Tax Returns: McCrory dismissed criticism that he has not released his tax returns, saying his Statement of Economic Interest filed with the ethics commission discloses where he gets all his income.
- Voter ID: McCrory says he endorses Voter ID.
- Budget: McCrory says North Carolina needs to cut its budget further than even the Republican legislature did this past year. Asked for a specific example of somewhere to cut, he pointed to the various boards and commissions the governor must appoint.
- 47 percent: McCrory called the flurry of stories over Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's 47 percent remark, "minutia."
On the topic of the budget, McCrory said multiple times that the state owed more money than it was showing. He was specifically referring to money the state borrowed from the federal government to pay first time unemployment claims.
North Carolina is still borrowing $24 billion a week to pay claims. The state had an outstanding debt of $2.44 billion to the federal government as of Sept. 20. Right now, the only way for the state to repay this money is through an increase in unemployment insurance taxes charged to businesses in the state. Those taxes went up during the past year -- about $21 per worker -- due to federal rules regarding repayment requirements. Further tax increases could be triggered based on how long the state takes to pay back what it owes.
"I'm not going to hide it and show that it's off the books," McCrory said. He called the fact that the debt doesn't show up in the state's main budget as "Greece-like accounting," referring to the troubled Mediterranean nation's finances that prompted a bailout of its government.
States have dealt with similar debts in different ways. The system is designed so that money gathered during flush times repays money borrowed at the height of unemployment problems. Some states, such as Texas, have issued bonds to pay off the bills, shifting the burden from taxes on businesses to sales and income taxes paid into the general funds. Others, such as Indiana, have undertaken more comprehensive overhauls of the system that both cut benefits and raised revenue.
McCrory has told reporters that he favors using bonds to pay down the UI debt. He told Crabtree that neither Republicans nor Democrats had accounted for it properly.
"We do not have a balanced budget," McCrory said.