By Gov. Pat McCrory
To get North Carolina moving forward again, our administration is concentrating on reforms in three fundamental areas: the economy, education and efficiency. We're making great progress on some complex long-term problems, but on two critical issues -- health care and energy -- we're going to need the federal government's cooperation.
On Monday, I will participate in a panel of Outer-Continental Shelf governors on the need to expand offshore energy exploration. In February, during a White House visit, I asked President Obama directly to expand offshore leasing off the coasts of North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina. He told me the issue is being reviewed.
The time for further delay is over. It's time to get off the sidelines and allow the states to exert the leadership that will create thousands of jobs, reduce America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil and protect the environment. The federal government must form a more cooperative partnership with the states so that more Americans -- especially North Carolinians - can get back on the payroll.
There are estimates that opening up the Atlantic shores to energy exploration could create up to 140,000 new jobs during the next 20 years. These are good-paying jobs that will allow families to save and build an economic future.
There's real-world evidence of energy's economic contributions as well. North Dakota enjoys the nation's lowest unemployment rate at 3.3 percent (March 2013). Much of North Dakota's economic success can be attributed to investments made in energy exploration on private and state lands. Growth has been so robust that energy production has surpassed agriculture as the state's largest economic sector.
Offshore energy exploration would also provide significant returns to the public sector. Under a bipartisan plan recently introduced in the U.S. Senate, North Carolina would receive at least 27.5 percent of royalties and other energy revenue from lease sales off our coast. An additional 10 percent could be earned by making landside investments in conservation and renewable energy projects. North Carolina could use the money. We have a long list of needs. Energy revenue could be used for additional investments in education, transportation and health care.
Federal cooperation is vital on another issue that deeply affects North Carolina -- Medicaid.
Last week, we received news that Medicaid budget overruns from Gov. Bev Perdue's administration will total $248 million, twice what was originally expected. The unpredictability of Medicaid costs and its adverse impact on the entire state budget is reason alone for reform.
However, budgetary concerns are not the prime reason we're overhauling North Carolina's Medicaid program. We're pursuing reform so we can take better care of our fellow citizens. Our plan centers on the patient's wellbeing, not just their physical needs. We would like to provide mental health and substance abuse coverage. Our plan also calls for coordination with social service providers so that non-medical needs that contribute to the patient's healing process can be delivered. Our reform goals are simple. We want to do everything we can to get the Medicaid patient healthy sooner and provide them with avenues that will lead to a long-term, healthier life.
To implement this holistic approach, we'll need a waiver from Washington. I hope the president approves this unconventional approach so we can take care of our Medicaid patients in a caring, comprehensive manner while at the same time reducing costs to the taxpayer.
Medicaid reform and energy are just two issues where the federal government needs to join North Carolina in solving problems that affect people's everyday lives. I hope the president adopts our view that government must be a partner - not an adversary - to progress.
By working together, we can get North Carolina and the nation back on the right track by simply unleashing the unlimited potential of our people.
This formula has worked before. I guarantee it will work again.
Pat McCrory is the governor of North Carolina.