RALEIGH – You’d think if the State’s bookkeeper was sounding the alarm for billions of overspending and sketchy fiscal behavior, to say the least, the governor and the department in question would bend over backward to to assure taxpayers they weren’t being fleeced. In the case of Governor Roy Cooper and his appointed leadership at the N.C. Department of Transportation, you’d be wrong. Instead, what you get is clueless excuses from the NCDOT, and defensive vitriol from the governor.
After N.C. State Treasurer Dale Folwell presented a damning account of $2 billion in overspending by the department, exacerbated by secret raiding of the Highway Trust Fund, he called for Sec. Jim Trogdon to be replaced.
Far from offering a different take on the numbers, or promising reforms are forthcoming, the NCDOT curiously told North State Journal they are ‘operating within their cash window.’
“Secretary Trogdon is focused on continuing to deliver critical projects in every region of the state and implementing improvements to our internal processes to continue to improve what we do for the people of this state while operating within our cash window,” said the NCDOT.
What about having $5 billion, and spending $7 billion is operating within the ‘cash window’? At leas they feigned focus on internal processes to improve things; Cooper couldn’t even muster that much. Rather, the governor completely skirts the issue and takes misdguided cheap shots at Treasurer Folwell.
“[…] “A financial lecture from the nation’s least effective state Treasurer, who boasts among the worst fiduciary return on investment and raised the cost of healthcare for state employees during his tenure, is not credible,” the governor’s office said in a statement. […]
“We didn’t do these things, we discovered them,” Folwell said in response to the governor’s office. “As keepers of the public purse, we have a responsibility to try to fix them. We do that by following the law and attacking problems, not people.” […]”
Cooper’s attack on Folwell is laughable and bitterly defensive. Since taking office, Folwell has cut costs of managing the State’s pension and healthcare liabilities by hundreds of millions of dollars, saving taxpayers millions.
The hard-nosed approach is expressed equally in changes to the pension’s risk profile making Return on Investment (ROI) conservative relative to riskier investments in an ‘All-Time Highs’ market atmosphere. However, in the inevitable market downturns ahead, such prudence will help protect capital and ensure solvency going forward.
Looking out for the long term interests of the North Carolina taxpayers and not overloading on debt binges is exactly what we should expect from a fiduciary. Folwell, in fact, a forensic accountant by training, with a track record of pulling the State out of debt. He is eminently credible.
Of course Cooper, who’s entire wish list is fueled by massive spending splurges and seems to have little regard for how taxpayers are treated. One of his main contentions with the budget he still refuses to sign (so he can add even MORE healthcare debt to NC) is that is cuts taxes for businesses large and small. Now, with revelations that taxpayers are being abused by his handpicked leader at the NCDOT, Cooper merely attacks the messenger.
How about some accountability?