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Originally published: 2014-01-27 11:26:05
Last modified: 2014-01-27 11:26:05

McCrory charts course for 2014

by Anna Oakes

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory last week outlined a number of goals for his second year in office, including plans to increase teacher salaries, reform Medicaid and develop the state's energy resources.

The governor has been stating for months that he would like to increase K-12 teacher pay in 2014, and he announced goals to boost starting pay and reward highly productive teachers and those in high-demand subjects, such as mathematics and the sciences.

McCrory said he is working with legislative leaders and senior education advisor Eric Guckian to develop a comprehensive plan to raise teacher compensation, dubbed the "Results, Rewards, Respect" plan.

He said full details will be unveiled in the coming weeks, with elements of the plan to be introduced during the General Assembly's upcoming short session.

Speaking earlier this month, McCrory said the current pay structure forces teachers seeking higher compensation to become administrators. 

"We ought to have an opportunity for teachers to be some of the highest paid employees at a school. It doesn't always have to be the principal," McCrory told attendees of the Holshouser Legislative Retreat in Greensboro.

A survey released by Public Policy Polling Jan. 16 found that 79 percent of North Carolina voters support a plan to raise teacher pay to the national average during the next four years.

But the state's Democrats accused the governor of "hoping to save face" in an election year, despite significant cuts to public education funding in the state.

"North Carolina teachers and concerned parents will see right through the governor's attempt to use teacher pay as a political football in the lead up to an election," said N.C. Democratic Party First Vice Chairwoman Patsy Keever in a statement.

In another education initiative, the governor said he wants to reduce substance abuse and underage drinking among college students.

McCrory listed energy exploration among his initiatives to stimulate economic growth and job creation, noting that he has requested a meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss seismic testing off North Carolina and other coastal states -- "a first step toward more offshore energy production."

A statement from his office also mentioned renewable energy development and exploration of inland natural gas and oil.

Other economic goals are to leverage transportation connections and expand the military's presence in North Carolina, the governor's office said.

Medicaid reform is also on the horizon, with a report and recommendations due to the N.C. General Assembly in March. McCrory said he wants a Medicaid system focused on treating the "whole person," including physical and mental health needs. 

McCrory also announced plans to modernize the Department of Motor Vehicles, renovate and rebuild state facilities and increase government efficiency.