NC Politics in the News

March 14, 2017

Pardon Our Dust

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Governor Roy Cooper Addresses Legislature with Biennial State of theState

On Monday, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper addressed theRepublican-controlled legislature at the biennial State of the Stateaddress. Here’s what people are saying about the Governor’s first addressand the GOP response offered by Sen. Phil Berger.

NEWS & OBSERVER: Cooper stresses cooperation in State of the Statespeech

Gov. Roy Cooper reached out to Republican legislators in his first State ofthe State address on Monday night, emphasizing their shared interests andnot the high-profile skirmishes of his first 2 1/2 months in office.

NEWS & OBSERVER: Berger touts Republican successes, says Cooper‘squeaked into office’

Senate leader Phil Berger treated Gov. Roy Cooper almost as an afterthoughtin the GOP response to the Democratic governor’s State of the Stateaddress.

Here’s what the Governor had to say:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tem, Members of the General Assembly,Council of State, Judiciary and my Cabinet and fellow North Carolinians:

The North Carolina Constitution directs the governor come to thelegislature, to and I quote, “give to the General Assembly information ofthe affairs of the State and recommend to their considerations suchmeasures as he shall deem expedient.”

Our Constitution mandates that we work together to make North Carolinabetter, and it charges the governor to participate in the legislativeprocess. That constitutional directive, and your kind invitation, is why Icome tonight.

I didn’t come alone. In the gallery are four strong women whom I thank fortheir never-ending love and support: First Lady, Kristin Cooper, and mydaughters Hilary, Natalie and Claire.

I want to begin by reporting to you that the state of our state ispromising.

It is promising because of our universities and community colleges, becauseof our farms and factories, our Research Triangle Park, our bankingheadquarters, but most of all because of the hardworking people of thisstate who want it to succeed.

North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in America. By 2025, wewill have one million more residents. Many of these people will come toNorth Carolina because we are the state of promise.

People come because of the climate. The mountains and coast. The schoolsand higher education. They come because of good jobs and opportunity. Andpeople come to our state for the promise of a great life and of goodcommunities. And when they come here, they are welcomed.

There is warmth in the nodding of heads as we walk down the sidewalk. Thereis a welcoming handshake at the ball field. There are the open arms ofentire communities welcoming home veterans who served our country. Ourpeople are welcoming.

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 aheadand get it out of the way. Tonight, I call on the legislature once again torepeal House Bill 2. The law has damaged our state. The legislature musterase this law from our books. Pass a clean repeal of HB2 and I will signit the same day.

Pass a compromise repeal that works to eliminate discrimination and bringsback jobs, sports and entertainment and I will sign it – as long as ittruly gets the job done.

I also raise this issue at the beginning because HB2 is the dark cloudhanging over our state of promise. It drains the energy from what should beour work for the people of this state.

Citizens from Cherokee to Chocowinity are sick of it and they are wonderingwhen we’re going to cut away this heavy anchor weighing us down. Let’s doit this week. It’s time to move on.

HB2 might be a dark cloud, but even the darkest clouds blow over, and Ibelieve we are a state of promise at our core.

Being elected to serve the people of every county, every city, everylegislative district, and every community in between helps me realize justhow big and diverse our state really is.

It also demands that we listen to the concerns of the people who will holdus accountable, whether they voted for us or not.

I bring their concerns to you today, boiled down this way: I want NorthCarolinians to be better educated, healthier and

have more money in their pockets.

Too many people feel stuck in the middle – not wealthy by any measure, butdoing just well enough that the social safety net isn’t there for them.They feel left behind by a system that isn’t listening to them and aneconomy that isn’t rewarding

them for their hard work.

The budget I shared two weeks ago reflects the priorities of

North Carolina’s hard-working people. It contains no increase in taxes. Itrejects the false “either/or” choice of either saving or investing.Instead, my budget puts hundreds of millions of dollars in our rainy dayfund while committing to a future of growth.

I call this budget “Common Ground Solutions” because it contains many areasof agreement.

In Raleigh, partisan battles, power struggles and lawsuits might grab theheadlines, but we have to work together where we can. To look beyondourselves to see what’s right for the state, regardless of who’s in power.

That’s what the people of North Carolina want us to do, and what commonsense demands us to do. So let’s get to work.

Job recruitment, raising teacher pay, fighting the opioid crisis, boostingour infrastructure and recovering from natural disasters that have damagedour communities. These are areas where we already agree more than wedisagree. These tasks don’t come with a party label for a reason. They arepriorities we all share.

Let me first address making North Carolinians better educated. As I havetraveled the width and breadth of North Carolina, it doesn’t matter where Iam or who I’m talking to, people want us to make education better.

When I’m recruiting a business to come here – to your legislativedistricts, the first thing they ask is whether North Carolina has theworkers skilled enough to fill the jobs they create.

Improving education is an area where we can find common ground. We have tomeasure our progress and hold ourselves accountable.

That’s why I’ve laid out aggressive goals to make North Carolina a Top TenEducated State by 2025 – emphasizing early childhood education, increasingenrollment in pre-kindergarten, improving our high school graduation rateand increasing the percentage of adults with a higher education degree.

My budget creates nearly 4,700 additional Pre-Kindergarten slots toeliminate the wait-list of at-risk four year olds. Getting more kids inpre-K means they’ll arrive at school ready to learn. It’s the foundationfor a lifetime of success, showing economic and health benefits well beyondtheir pre-K years. And it allows both parents to stay in the workforce, anecessity for many North Carolina families.

Top CEOs in our state are promoting early childhood education because theyknow it makes a difference. Research proves that investing in quality earlychildhood education generates high returns, where $1 of investment yields$7 in return or even higher.

To help families afford the cost of quality childcare, I’m also proposingthat we reinstate the Child Care and Dependent Tax Credit, which alsoapplies to those caring for aging parents.

As our children move from early childhood to grade school, we entrust ourteachers with their futures every single day. Let’s put our money where ourtrust is and raise teacher salaries.

My plan gives an average 10% raise over the next two years. On this pace,we can bring teacher salaries up to best in the Southeast in three yearsand to at least the national average in five years.

And my budget gives every single teacher a raise, valuing the experiencedteachers as well as those new to the job.

Wendell Tabb, with us here tonight, is a 30-year veteran teacher in Durhamwhose experience in the classroom is a benefit for his students, and otherteachers. Wendell is here representing thousands of veteran teachers whoare making education better. Thanks for all you do, Wendell!

Despite paychecks stretched too thin already, our teachers often dip intotheir own pockets to buy basic school supplies. Wake County teacher JasmineLauer, who is here with us tonight, is all too familiar with this crunch.She wants her students to have everything they need. For her, that meansbuying books for her students online, one at a time, until they eventuallyhave a full set. Jasmine represents so many selfless teachers who wanttheir students to have what they need. Thanks for your sacrifice, Jasmine!

My budget proposes an annual $150 supply bonus to help teachers cover thecost of supplies. It won’t cover everything, but it’s a tangible sign ofour appreciation and respect.

We’re also joined tonight by Sabrina Peacock, a teacher from GuilfordCounty. Sabrina entered the classroom as a North Carolina Teaching Fellowand today teaches 3rd grade at Oak Hill Elementary, a Title One school,working to ensure that every student has access to a quality education.

We must recruit our best students to become teachers. That’s why my budgetwould create $10,000 Best and Brightest scholarships for students whocommit to spending three to four years in the classroom, like Sabrina did.I understand some legislators want to do this, too. Let’s find commonground so we can get more of these great teachers. Thanks for bringing yourtalents to the teaching profession, Sabrina!

In my talks with business owners, I hear time and again that they have jobopenings, but can’t find workers with the skills necessary to fill them.

We know the problem and we have the answer: educated workers with high-techcritical thinking skills, earned at our high schools, community collegesand universities.

To give people in the middle class more opportunity to afford highereducation, let’s pass a workforce program we call NC GROW – Getting Readyfor Opportunities in the Workforce. It means free community college—ascholarship to cover last-dollar tuition and fees for recent high schoolgraduates to attend a North Carolina community college.

To earn it, young people have to make good grades and apply foralready-existing scholarships, loans and grant programs. It’s an idea thatRepublican and Democratic governors alike have supported in other states.We can make it a bipartisan reality here in North Carolina.

Yes, there’s a price tag on these investments in education. But now thatthe economy is rebounding, it’s time to make smart, strategic investmentsin our people.

We cannot sacrifice education at the altar of even more corporate tax cutsor giveaways that are mostly for the wealthiest. Changes to our tax codeneed to focus on relief for working families – not corporations andmillionaires.

Next, let’s work together to get more money in the pockets of NorthCarolina families by bringing and growing more good-paying jobs to ourstate and to your legislative districts.

One of the most important steps that the legislature can take is to fundour education budget. An educated workforce is a competitive workforce, andcompanies are in a global search for talent. Let’s take advantage of ourintellectual capital.

There are other strategic steps we can take to make our state morecompetitive – funding to prepare mega-sites to attract large-scale,advanced manufacturing.

Workforce technical training that is more nimble and customized to whatcompanies say they need.

Encouraging more people to get into high-paying trades, like plumbing andelectrical work, or medical research and high tech engineering.

Incentives to bring the film industry back to North Carolina. Initiativesto harness the innovation and entrepreneurship happening right now at ourworld-class universities and in our cities.

Encouraging renewable energy which is already bringing good jobs to ourstate.

Providing help for small business. And a focus on rural broadband access,which is a must for economic success in our rural communities. We cannotleave them behind.

Tonight we’re joined by Charlotte Vick. Vick Family Farms in Wilson hasexpanded its sweet potato crops in recent years and is rapidly increasingproduction to meet global demand, including building a new 50,000 squarefoot packaging facility.

Sixty percent of Vick Family Farms’ customer base is overseas and access tobroadband internet has allowed the company to compete, manage shipments,and grow their business.

We must do more to help rural small businesses and family farms grow.High-speed broadband access is key to their success, in fact, a necessity,in a global marketplace. Thanks for your hard work and innovation,Charlotte!

Finally, our economy is recovering. But our unemployment rate is still 5.3percent, the same as last January, and that is still slightly above thenational average. Meanwhile, our Unemployment Trust Fund has grown to morethan two billion dollars.

That’s good. But we must use this opportunity and these funds to help forthose who can’t find work, while also taking a deeper look at those who arechronically unemployed.

The Governor and the legislature need to work together to get better-payingjobs for North Carolina. We have good opportunities to make that happen inthe coming months.

We also need to see that North Carolinians are healthier. While we’ve madeprogress in getting more people health insurance, we still have an alarminggap in coverage that we’re all paying for with high-priced indigent care.

Yet there’s a new healthcare landscape in our country, filled withuncertainty. We have to sit down and have serious discussions aboutimproving access to care for people who don’t have it.

Most of these are people who work hard but find it tough to afford to see adoctor. We also have rural hospitals that struggle to stay open and providegood health care across the state.

If we work together, we can improve the health of thousands of NorthCarolinians.

One of the most frightening developments in our country and state is theopioid and substance abuse crisis. It threatens lives, rips apart familiesand can create a shortage of qualified workers.

In my hometown of Nashville, North Carolina, Police Chief Tom Bashore isworking to combat this addiction crisis. Last February, Chief Bashore andthe Nashville Police Department launched the “Hope Initiative,” the firstprogram in North Carolina encouraging opioid addicts to walk into a policestation seeking treatment without fear of arrest.

Recognizing that addiction is a disease, Chief Bashore has engaged with thecommunity to eliminate the stigma surrounding opioid addiction andencourage addicts to seek treatment. He knows that prevention is part ofstrong and effective law enforcement. I’m proud to have Chief Bashore joinus here tonight. We must support his work and the work of those offeringtreatment in communities across our state. Thanks, Chief!

My budget directs mental health and law enforcement funding in amulti-pronged approach to combat the substance abuse crisis. This is anarea where we must find common ground to help our friends and neighborsgripped by addiction.

Being healthy also means clean air and water. An emphasis on renewableenergy can achieve that, and it will help our economy sustain good-payingjobs. We’ve seen the positive results already.

Finally, I urge cooperation as we work to rebuild the thousands of homes,businesses, schools and roads damaged by last year’s storms. No solution isas easy or as quick as we want it to be, but I pledge to continue workingwith North Carolina’s Congressional delegation and you in the GeneralAssembly to help residents rebuild in those 50 hard-hit counties.

We have made progress in a few key categories that I am pleased to reportto you tonight. In just the past couple of months, we’ve been able torepair and reopen more than 100 roads, and help hundreds of families returnhome or find other places to live.

But nearly 600 households are still in need of permanent housing. We willnot forget these families, and must keep working together to help them.

One thing that has become clear during the disaster recovery is the lack ofaffordable, available housing in eastern North Carolina that has hinderedrelocation efforts. That’s why I am asking you to work with me to restoreallowing the use of federal money for housing so we can start to build ourway out of this affordable housing shortage.

Tonight, we have a remarkable young lady with us who represents the verybest of our state’s resilient spirit. In 2015, before the storm,12-year-old Mackenzie Hinson, from Grantham, founded “Make A DifferenceFood Pantry” to help people in her community. After the devastation ofHurricane Matthew, Mackenzie and her volunteers went into overdrive.Following the hurricane, her pantry’s shelves were empty and friends andfamily members lost homes.

But Mackenzie and her team were not deterred. With the help of businessesand volunteers, they restocked and got to work.

After Hurricane Matthew, Make A Difference Food Pantry was open for 42straight days, serving 6,914 hot meals and distributing food boxes andtoiletry items to over 8,000 people in Wayne, Johnston, and Sampsoncounties.

Mackenzie, thank you for being here tonight and for being an inspiration.By following your example, we will rebuild our communities and be astronger state than ever. Good work, Mackenzie!

Serving the people of North Carolina is the honor of my lifetime.

Standing in this well tonight, I’m reminded of my years in these seats,serving with Democratic and Republican governors who worked together tosolve problems.

You make the decision to sacrifice your privacy, time with family and insome cases, your income, to be here. For that, I salute you.

When we take the oath of office, we take on the weight of tremendousresponsibility. A responsibility to uphold our constitution, in votinglaws, in classrooms, in health care. To act in the best interest of thepeople who elected us. To leave North Carolina better than we found it.

To do that, we must put politics aside and work together. And in order tomaintain North Carolina as a state of promise, I will make a few promises.

I promise to listen, to engage, to build consensus, to compromise whenpossible. I promise to fight only when we can’t come to agreement or whenyou leave me no choice. I promise to make sure state government employspeople who look like the people it represents.

To find the common ground we seek, let’s listen to North Carolinians urgingus to set aside divisive social issues and political power struggles.Instead, let’s focus on teacher pay and jobs — the issues families face andtalk about every day around their kitchen tables.

Back in the late 1990s, this House was controlled by Republicans while Iwas in the Senate, controlled by Democrats. We disagreed and fought. And Ispent many late nights here, talking and negotiating. But we found commonground on raising teacher salaries to the national average. We found commonground on expanding Smart Start and cutting taxes for the middle class.Republicans and Democrats can find common ground if we work on it.

We can find common ground on education. We can find common ground on healthcare and the opioid epidemic. We can find common ground on raising thejuvenile age. We will find common ground on jobs, economic development andfurther hurricane and wildfire recovery. We will find this agreementbecause too much is at stake if we don’t.

The people of North Carolina are watching us. Over the next few months,let’s fulfill our promise and demonstrate to North Carolina and beyond,that there is enough room for all of us on that common ground. God blessyou, our country, and the great state of North Carolina.

Transcript Courtesy of WRAL-NEWS.