RALEIGH, NC -Governor Roy Cooper delivered his first State of the State address Monday night. Cooper’s speech to the North Carolina General Assembly highlighted many of his campaigning platforms, including house bill 2, teacher pay as well as jobs and economy.
After thanking his family and praising North Carolina as “one of the fastest-growing states in America,” Cooper quickly moved to the controversial HB2.
“Our people are welcoming. But some of our laws are not. I’m going to say this first thing because of the urgency and to go ahead and get it out of the way,” Cooper said right before he asked the legislature to pass a repeal of the law.
“I will sign it the same day,” said Cooper. “Citizens from Cherokee to Chocowinity are sick of it and they are wondering when we’re going to cut away this heavy anchor weighing us down. Let’s do it this week. It’s time to move on.”
After failing to receive a full repeal of the law, Cooper offered a compromise to repeal HB2 in mid-February. The provisions of the repeal were intended to increase Republican support for greeting rid of the law. Components of the compromise included, repealing the law, imposing tougher penalties for crimes committed in restrooms and dressing rooms and it required local governments to give the General Assembly 30 days’ notice before adopting a non-discrimination ordinance.
Senate Leader Phil Berger argued the proposal was not a compromise.
"He needs to come forward with something other than what he's been saying all along," said Berger. "He needs to move off of the far-extreme, where he is on this issue."
Cooper’s State of the State address moved onto North Carolina’s budget, where he called his proposed budget a “common ground solution.”
The governor touched on raising teacher pay, saying this task “doesn’t come with a party label for a reason. They are priorities we all share.”
His address laid out a plan to improve education, by creating 4,700 additional pre-kindergarten slots and a proposal to reinstate the Child Care and Dependent Tax Credit.
Keeping with his campaign promises, Cooper said his plan also gives an average 10 percent raise over the next two years to teacher.
“On this pace, we can bring teacher salaries up to best in the Southeast in three years and to at least the national average in five years.”
Cooper’s plan also called to give every teacher a raise, while supplying them with an annual $150 supply bonus to help cover the costs of supplies. In addition, Cooper encouraged students to stay in the area and become teachers. He’s proposed a $10,000 Best and Brightest scholarship for students committed to spending three to four years in the classroom.
While on the topic of jobs, Cooper discussed the state’s unemployment rate, currently at 5.3 percent, slightly above the national average.
“Meanwhile, our Unemployment Trust Fund has grown to more than two billion dollars,” said Cooper. “That’s good. But we must use this opportunity and these funds to help for those who can’t find work, while also taking a deeper look at those who are chronically unemployed.”
The governor wants to encourage more people to get into high-paying trades, like plumbing and electrical work, or medical research and high tech engineering.
Cooper also hopes to create incentives that will bring the film industry back to North Carolina, while pushing a focus on renewable energy, which he said is “already bringing good jobs back to the state.”
Before moving on in his speech, Cooper said the state must do more to help small businesses and family farms grow.
Berger delivered the Republican response to Cooper’s address, calling the governor’s propositions a “step back.”
The senator started by asking people to imagine a party that promised to do some very big things and then immediately started doing those things once elected. Berger then listed several items, saying this party would slash the unemployment rate in half, stop spending and borrowing beyond their means, dramatically cut taxes, tackle the affordability of college, improve student literacy among other things.
Berger finished his list by stating, “In the last six years, that’s exactly what House and Senate Republicans accomplished.”
The senator continued, saying Cooper’s speech was not a vision of a better North Carolina, but a mirage.
“It’s a step back to out of control spending, back to high taxes, back to blindly throwing money at an education bureaucracy that fails to put students first. It is ultimately a step back to rising unemployment rates and joblessness.”
Berger finished by saying he and Speaker Tim Moore, “won’t allow North Carolina to move backwards.”
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