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State treasurer's office raises financial concerns about airport transfer

The creation of a Charlotte airport authority would raise thorny legal issues involving airport debt and could even affect the cost of state borrowing, the N.C. Treasurer’s office said Monday.

Deputy Treasurer T. Vance Holloman said legal uncertainty over the airport’s $860 million debt “could result in potential prolonged litigation.” He said transfer of airport control from the city of Charlotte to a new authority “could affect the cost of borrowing and desirability of North Carolina revenue bonds.” He urged lawmakers to “proceed cautiously.”

Holloman made the comments in a letter to Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthews Republican and a main sponsor of legislation that would create an independent, 13-member authority to run Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Full story here.

Morning Memo: National gun debate to hit North Carolina TV screens

UPDATED: BLOOMBERG TO TARGET N.C. IN GUN DEBATE: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is preparing to launch a major TV ad campaign aimed at U.S. senators in swing states -- including Democrat Kay Hagan. From the NYT: "Determined to persuade Congress to act in response to that shooting, Mr. Bloomberg on Monday will begin bankrolling a $12 million national advertising campaign that focuses on senators who he believes might be persuaded to support a pending package of federal regulations to curb gun violence. The ads, in 13 states, will blanket those senators’ districts during an Easter Congressional recess that is to be followed by debate over the legislation."

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The Dix lease to the city of Raleigh hits the chopping block. The Senate convenes at 7 p.m. but won't consider the bill until Tuesday. The House convenes at 4 p.m. but no votes are expected. The Wake County delegation at 4 p.m. in room 643 of the legislative office building. (More on the meeting below.) Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule today.

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a daily tipsheet for N.C. political news. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. Read more below.***

Morning Memo: Democrat files first tax bill, McCrory concedes ground

UPDATED: DEMOCRAT FILES FIRST MAJOR TAX BILL: With a bipartisan list of sponsors, Charlotte Democratic Sen. Dan Clodfelter beat Republicans to the punch on tax overhaul legislation. Clodfelter filed a bill Thursday to lower personal and corporate income taxes, as well as the state sales tax with a more modest expansion of taxable services. One big proposed change: a flat income tax rate at 6 percent, instead of three-tiered structure now, as well as exempting the first $11,000 in income from taxation. Clodfelter said it would help all taxpayers but especially low- and middle-income residents.

McCRORY SAYS NO INCOME TAX ELIMINATION: Gov. Pat McCrory, who campaigned on a plan to significantly lower personal and corporate income taxes and possibly eliminate them, is now conceding ground. McCrory took his budget tour on the road Thursday to Wilmington. The Star-News reported: "Even though McCrory cited the state’s tax system as a disadvantage in competition with South Carolina and Virginia, he said it was not possible now to eliminate the personal or corporate income taxes as part of his upcoming tax reform proposals."

***It's March Madness -- in basketball and state politics. Read more Dome Morning Memo below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. ***

McCrory's budget gets mixed reaction among lawmakers

Republican lawmakers are giving Gov. Pat McCrory's budget a favorable rating -- particularly compared to his Democratic predecessor -- but Democrats are raising concerns about taking money from outside entities, particularly those focused on economic development and minority programs.

State Budget Director Art Pope presented the plan to lawmakers Thursday, a day after it was submitted to the legislature for consideration.

"If this was the budget bracket battle, this would go to the next round," Republican state Rep. Tom Murry said, playing office the start of March Madness. The previous governor's budget would have been eliminated in the first round.

But Democrats are concerned about gutting once-sacred cows, such as the Golden LEAF Foundation, N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and other programs that received money from the state commerce department.

Morning Memo: Inside McCrory's budget; Foxx considered for Obama post

UPDATED: WHAT THE BUDGET SAYS ABOUT McCRORY: Columnist Rob Christensen -- "It suggested that McCrory is a pragmatic, moderate conservative – not a tea party Republican. The budget colored him an incrementalist with a modest vision of what government can or should accomplish. A governor’s first budget is particularly important because the governor is at the height of his or her power to push an agenda through the legislature. McCrory will never has as much leverage as he has today. So what did he do with his leverage?

"McCrory’s budget offered no sweeping vision of what he wants his governorship to be about. ... This may be sound management, but it is not the stuff of which legacies are made."

REPUBLICANS STACK THE DECK: The UNC Board of Governors elections in the House on Wednesday opened a chasm between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP elected mostly its own kin to the board, sweeping out all incumbents. Democrats voiceferously objected. But House GOP leader Edgar Starnes' response crystalized the debate: "I would just remind you of one thing. The Republicans won the election. We are in control. We intend to elect Republicans and appoint Republicans and we make no apology for it."

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. Click below for much more.***

McCrory offers modest budget, small pay raise for state workers

Gov. Pat McCrory proposed a modest $20.6 billion state budget Wednesday that includes a 1 percent pay hike for state employees but limits spending growth to 2 percent.

The Republican governor emphasized spending on education and economic development, two campaign priorities in the plan, by including money to hire 1,800 additional classroom teachers and $2.7 million to craft a new branding strategy to lure companies to the state. Another 5,000 at risk 4-year-olds would be able to get into pre-kindergarten programs, at a cost of $9 million a year. But it also cuts $117 million that now funds teacher assistants.

“We have a sound foundation but the foundation now has some cracks in it,” McCrory said in an announcement at the Capitol. “Our immediate goal is to fill in those cracks ... so we can have stronger foundation for future generations.”

McCrory included no major high-priced spending initiatives, reflecting the state’s still tenuous economic picture and his campaign promises to limit government programs. On average, state agencies will see their budgets cut 1 percent to 3 percent from the current year’s $20.2 billion spending plan, leading to some jobs cuts and the elimination of longtime state interests. The budget year starts July 1.

Morning Memo: 5 big questions for Pat McCrory's first budget plan

McCRORY'S BUDGET DEBUTS TODAY: Gov. Pat McCrory will unveil his first state budget proposal at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday -- a document that will help define his legislative agenda and vision for the state. Here are five questions he will face:

1. THE STATUS QUO OR BIG IDEAS? The state budget is as much a policy document as it is a line-item spending plan. Does McCrory offer big ideas to overhaul state government, such as a tax overhaul or major spending cuts, or put forward a status quo budget with few changes from the previous years?

2. WHO'S BUDGET IS THIS -- McCRORY'S OR POPE'S? State Budget Director Art Pope knows the innards of state government from his time as a lawmaker. But he is a polarizing figure in some political spheres and Democrats are looking for his fingerprints, ideological and otherwise, on the spending plan.

3. HOW DOES THE BUDGET ADDRESS UNDERPAID TEACHERS, OR STATE EMPLOYEES? McCrory's budget comes days after a new report showed the state's teachers ranked No. 48 in the nation in pay. Does the governor acknowledge this and offer them a raise? And likewise with state employees, who received a minimal 1.2 percent salary bump last year after years without pay increases -- do they get any love?

4. HOW DOES THIS BUDGET HELP CREATE JOBS?Following the GOP mantra that everything is about jobs this legislative session, what does the budget do in terms of economic development, incentives and job creation?

5. WILL LAWMAKERS TAKE IT SERIOUSLY? McCrory is the new governor with an approval rating higher than state lawmakers, but the lawmakers craft the budget. Will they stick closely to McCrory's draft or go their own direction?

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo, the source for North Carolina political analysis and news. Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com. And click below to read possible answers to the questions above.***

Lawmakers return to Capitol chambers with ceremonial flourish

The N.C. General Assembly met in its old chambers Monday evening at the State Capitol to commemorate the 10th anniversary of an FBI raid that eventually led to the return of the state's Bill of Rights.

On the House side, state lawmakers took turns reciting the history behind the event. The scene provided quiet a contrast to the more modern legislative chambers. House Speaker Thom Tillis stood on the small dais in front of a large painting of George Washington, a Thomas Sully copy of the Gilbert Stuart "Lansdowne" portrait. The lawmakers spoke at times without microphones, voices echoing in the softly lit chamber, giving the whole proceeding a Ken Burns affect.

The House members were crammed elbow-to-elbow in the tiny half-circle rows of old wooden desks. Rep. Roger West, a Marble Republican, sat in desk No. 106, the one formerly occupied by his father, Herman West, a two-term House member and one-term state senator. "I was just sitting here, thinking about what they were thinking about back then," he said. "It was probably a different agenda."

Morning Memo: Rare session at Capitol, more fallout from tainted donor

UPDATED: TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House and Senate convene this evening in the old legislative chambers at the Capitol to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the recovering of the N.C. Bill of Rights after a Union soldier took it during the Civil War. Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a reception for the event earlier in the day.

McCRORY DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM TAINTED BURNS MONEY:From AP: North Carolina's governor says he had no contact with a campaign contributor who faces racketeering charges in Florida over illegal gambling. Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday he had never heard of Chase Egan Burns, the Oklahoma man accused this week of owning gambling parlors operated by Allied Veterans of the World. Prosecutors say the purported charity earned about $300 million from illegal gambling, with only about 2 percent actually going to veterans. McCrory's campaign has purged itself Wednesday of $8,000 in contributions made in October by Burns and his wife, sending the money to a Durham charity. "I wouldn't know him if I saw him," said McCrory, a Republican. "I think we got it (the checks) through the mail."

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. Click "Read More" for more.***

Morning Memo: McCrory budget may emerge soon, men oppose 'nipple bill'

McCRORY BUDGET RELEASE NEXT WEEK? Top GOP lawmakers say Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to release his state budget plan next week. The governor's office is remaining mum. But budget details are leaking to lawmakers, who say McCrory's spending plan isn't like to include details of a major tax overhaul, such as corporate or personal income tax cuts, and instead it will assume the tax plan being negotiated privately by Republicans will be revenue neutral.

MEN OPPOSE NIPPLE BILL: Public Policy Polling will release more from its statewide voter survey later Friday. But here's a peak: nearly half of men -- 45 percent -- oppose the bill to prohibit women from barring their breasts and 34 percent support. Women are deadlocked at 38 percent on what is called the "nipple bill." (Insert stereotypical joke about men here.)

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. And read much more below.***

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