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Pat McCrory's $1.1 million cabinet; pay hikes from previous years

Pat McCrory's cabinet makes more than $1 million -- a $78,000 boost since Republican lawmakers changed state law to allow the governor to set the salaries.

The eight cabinet salaries have been set in state law for years but the legislature gave the next governor the ability to change them. McCrory hiked his cabinet payroll an average 8 percent.

McCrory bumped four cabinet secretaries -- Health and Human Services, Public Safety, Transportation and Commerce -- to $135,000 from the previous $121,807. Four other agency heads -- Environment and Natural Resources, Revenue, Administration and Cultural Resources -- increased to $128,000 from $121,807.

McCrory's cabinet doesn't meet his bipartisan claims

Naming his final picks for cabinet last week, Republican Gov.-elect Pat McCrory said he met his campaign pledge to assemble a bipartisan team.

“We have filled all eight of my cabinet secretary positions with a diverse bipartisan group representing all portions of North Carolina,” he said. “Half of which are Republican and half which are either Democrats or Independent.”

A spokesman for McCrory said the new governor was referring to their voter registration.

Here’s the partisan cabinet breakdown provided by McCrory’s team. Four Republicans: Aldona Wos, Kieran Shanahan, Bill Daughtridge and Lyons Gray. One Democrat: Susan Kluttz. And three independents: Tony Tata, Sharon Decker and John Skvarla.

But a review of campaign finance records and public statements suggests his cabinet is far from bipartisan.

McCrory to name more cabinet officials

Pat McCrory is expected to announce his final three cabinet picks Thursday, completing his administration two days before he takes office. The picks left: Commerce, Transportation and Administration.

The agency leaders likely will play a key role with three of McCrory's top goals: reviving the economy, establishing a new transportation infrastructure plan and restructuring state government. The Republican governor elect will hold a news conference at 11 a.m.

Morning Roundup: State debt, McCrory jobs, Stand By Your Ad

The $2.4 billion that North Carolina owes the federal government for jobless payments could lead to an overhaul of the state's unemployment insurance system. "It's not going to be fluffy and kind," Rep. Julia Howard says about spreading the pain around.

If you're looking for a job, the new governor is hiring. Gov.-elect Pat McCrory's website offers a trove of job listings, if you can figure out what they are. Here's that story.

The N.C.  Court of Appeals has thrown out a lawsuit brought by Democrats challenging a Republican campaign tactic of buying TV and radio ads directly rather than through a campaign committee. But the court widened the definition of whose financial support must be included in ad disclaimers.

Ahead of election, Pat McCrory quietly plans his transition to power

Ahead comfortably in the polls, Pat McCrory is quietly planning for his transition into power in the weeks before Election Day. McCrory's allies are looking at names for potential agency heads and a number of lists are floating through GOP circles.

"We are all obviously being very cautious and not doing very much until after the election,” Ed McMahan, a former state legislator from Charlotte, said Friday. “I think everybody would understand that either one of the candidates would be doing some planning … but everything’s being put on hold until after the election.”

Too many perks, too few women

* The State Bureau of Investigation is probing whether officials at the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles accepted improper gifts and meals from employees of Verizon Business, which holds a lucrative no-bid contract to provide computers to state inspection stations.

Investigators also are seeking to determine whether the state paid Verizon for hundreds of computers that were never delivered, at a cost of more than $1,700 each. (N&O)

* When Beverly Perdue was sworn in as North Carolina's first female governor in January, many women cheered her historic achievement.

And though many of those same women give Perdue high marks for her first months in office, there has been some grumbling among Democratic women that Perdue has not done more to bring other women along with her.

Perdue has appointed fewer women to Cabinet posts than any North Carolina governor in a generation and has fewer females among her top policy advisers than her recent male predecessors in the Executive Mansion. (N&O)

* At first, some Latino advocates celebrated news that North Carolina community colleges would open their doors to illegal immigrants.

Last week, they lamented that the opening was no more than a crack. The Sept. 18 decision from the State Board of Community Colleges allows undocumented students to enroll in degree programs at all of the state's 58 campuses, but it won't take effect until at least next fall because of a slow-moving administrative rules review process. And if enough people object, the rule could face a vote by the General Assembly, which has the power to kill it.

If the rule is approved, undocumented students will get last priority for classes at a time when surging enrollments have filled classrooms to capacity. And out-of-state tuition of $7,700 per year will be out of reach for many of the children of low-wage workers. (N&O)

Close associates inducted on last day

Gov. Mike Easley inducted close associates on his last day.

The two-term Democrat awarded 15 of his staffers and Cabinet members the Order of the Long Leaf Pine on his last day in office, Jan. 9, 2009.

The list includes longtime aide Franklin Freeman, chief legal counsel Reuben Young, spokeswoman Sherri Johnson, state health director Leah Devlin and senior assistant Susan Rabon.

He also gave an award to troubled parole chief Robert Lee Guy, although it was not included in state records.

As noted previously, Easley gave the award to more than 4,000 people over eight years, a rate of more than one a day.

A list of last-day awards after the jump.

Vets group names top goals

The N.C. Veterans Council has set its sights higher.

Despite the proliferation of bills giving new perks to active-duty and retired members of the military, the coalition of state veterans groups is pushing for three more substantial bills:

* Studying traumatic brain injury. The state Institute of Medicine would study mental health services for injured veterans.

* Extending tax exemptions on military pensions. Veterans with pensions that began before 1989 do not pay state income tax. This bill would extend that benefit to all vets.

* Creating a Cabinet veterans position. The state Division of Veterans Affairs would be elevated to a Cabinet-level position appointed by the governor.

Bruce Edwards, a retired Army colonel who heads the state Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the tax exemption may be the toughest sell, but he argued it would attract a lot of retirees to the state.

He said the other perks — which include free tours of state museums and free parking — are nice, but they're not the main mission right now.

"It's all good," he said. "But those are the three big ones."

Insko: Pay DHHS head more

Verla InskoState Rep. Verla Insko wants the person who runs the state Department of Health and Human Services to make more money.

The Chapel Hill Democrat has introduced a bill that would make the DHHS secretary's salary at least 15 percent higher than the highest paid doctor in the department, Lynn Bonner reports.

As a member of the governor's cabinet, the DHHS secretary's salary is set in the state budget. DHHS head Lanier Cansler makes $120,363 a year.

The job exemplifies one of those situations where the head of an agency has a number of subordinates who earn much more.

Dr. Michael Lancaster, an administrator who works in Raleigh, is the department's higest paid doctor. He makes $268,591 a year.

If Insko's bill passed, the secretary's salary would more than double, to $308,879.

More after the jump.

Repackaging the stimulus package

The stimulus package is being repackaged.

The money coming to North Carolina from the federal stimulus package passed by Congress is being rebranded.

At the Monday morning Cabinet meeting, Gov. Beverly Perdue said the North Carolina effort has been renamed to the more positive sounding "economic recovery" program, Rob Christensen reports.

Dempsey Benton took some kidding at the Cabinet meeting for being the state's new "stimulus czar." But maybe he now should be called the "economic recovery czar."

Dome will continue to refer to it as the "stimulus package" for the same reason we call the governor "Beverly" instead of "Bev." 

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