On Monday, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper addressed the
Republican-controlled legislature at the biennial State of the State
address. Here’s what people are saying about the Governor’s first address
and the GOP response offered by Sen. Phil Berger.
Gov. Roy Cooper reached out to Republican legislators in his first State of
the State address on Monday night, emphasizing their shared interests and
not the high-profile skirmishes of his first 2 1/2 months in office.
Senate leader Phil Berger treated Gov. Roy Cooper almost as an afterthought
in the GOP response to the Democratic governor’s State of the State
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 the
legislature, to and I quote, “give to the General Assembly information of
the affairs of the State and recommend to their considerations such
measures as he shall deem expedient.”
Our Constitution mandates that we work together to make North Carolina
better, and it charges the governor to participate in the legislative
process. That constitutional directive, and your kind invitation, is why I
I didn’t come alone. In the gallery are four strong women whom I thank for
their never-ending love and support: First Lady, Kristin Cooper, and my
daughters Hilary, Natalie and Claire.
I want to begin by reporting to you that the state of our state is
It is promising because of our universities and community colleges, because
of our farms and factories, our Research Triangle Park, our banking
headquarters, but most of all because of the hardworking people of this
state who want it to succeed.
North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in America. By 2025, we
will have one million more residents. Many of these people will come to
North Carolina because we are the state of promise.
People come because of the climate. The mountains and coast. The schools
and higher education. They come because of good jobs and opportunity. And
people come to our state for the promise of a great life and of good
communities. And when they come here, they are welcomed.
There is warmth in the nodding of heads as we walk down the sidewalk. There
is a welcoming handshake at the ball field. There are the open arms of
entire communities welcoming home veterans who served our country. Our
people 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 ahead
and get it out of the way. Tonight, I call on the legislature once again to
repeal House Bill 2. The law has damaged our state. The legislature must
erase this law from our books. Pass a clean repeal of HB2 and I will sign
it the same day.
Pass a compromise repeal that works to eliminate discrimination and brings
back jobs, sports and entertainment and I will sign it – as long as it
truly gets the job done.
I also raise this issue at the beginning because HB2 is the dark cloud
hanging over our state of promise. It drains the energy from what should be
our work for the people of this state.
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.
HB2 might be a dark cloud, but even the darkest clouds blow over, and I
believe we are a state of promise at our core.
Being elected to serve the people of every county, every city, every
legislative district, and every community in between helps me realize just
how big and diverse our state really is.
It also demands that we listen to the concerns of the people who will hold
us accountable, whether they voted for us or not.
I bring their concerns to you today, boiled down this way: I want North
Carolinians 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, but
doing 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 an
economy 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. It
rejects the false “either/or” choice of either saving or investing.
Instead, my budget puts hundreds of millions of dollars in our rainy day
fund while committing to a future of growth.
I call this budget “Common Ground Solutions” because it contains many areas
In Raleigh, partisan battles, power struggles and lawsuits might grab the
headlines, but we have to work together where we can. To look beyond
ourselves 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 common
sense demands us to do. So let’s get to work.
Job recruitment, raising teacher pay, fighting the opioid crisis, boosting
our infrastructure and recovering from natural disasters that have damaged
our communities. These are areas where we already agree more than we
disagree. These tasks don’t come with a party label for a reason. They are
priorities we all share.
Let me first address making North Carolinians better educated. As I have
traveled the width and breadth of North Carolina, it doesn’t matter where I
am or who I’m talking to, people want us to make education better.
When I’m recruiting a business to come here - to your legislative
districts, the first thing they ask is whether North Carolina has the
workers skilled enough to fill the jobs they create.
Improving education is an area where we can find common ground. We have to
measure our progress and hold ourselves accountable.
That’s why I’ve laid out aggressive goals to make North Carolina a Top Ten
Educated State by 2025 – emphasizing early childhood education, increasing
enrollment in pre-kindergarten, improving our high school graduation rate
and increasing the percentage of adults with a higher education degree.
My budget creates nearly 4,700 additional Pre-Kindergarten slots to
eliminate the wait-list of at-risk four year olds. Getting more kids in
pre-K means they’ll arrive at school ready to learn. It’s the foundation
for a lifetime of success, showing economic and health benefits well beyond
their pre-K years. And it allows both parents to stay in the workforce, a
necessity for many North Carolina families.
Top CEOs in our state are promoting early childhood education because they
know it makes a difference. Research proves that investing in quality early
childhood 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 proposing
that we reinstate the Child Care and Dependent Tax Credit, which also
applies to those caring for aging parents.
As our children move from early childhood to grade school, we entrust our
teachers with their futures every single day. Let’s put our money where our
trust 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 years
and to at least the national average in five years.
And my budget gives every single teacher a raise, valuing the experienced
teachers as well as those new to the job.
Wendell Tabb, with us here tonight, is a 30-year veteran teacher in Durham
whose experience in the classroom is a benefit for his students, and other
teachers. Wendell is here representing thousands of veteran teachers who
are making education better. Thanks for all you do, Wendell!
Despite paychecks stretched too thin already, our teachers often dip into
their own pockets to buy basic school supplies. Wake County teacher Jasmine
Lauer, 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 means
buying books for her students online, one at a time, until they eventually
have a full set. Jasmine represents so many selfless teachers who want
their students to have what they need. Thanks for your sacrifice, Jasmine!
My budget proposes an annual $150 supply bonus to help teachers cover the
cost of supplies. It won’t cover everything, but it’s a tangible sign of
our appreciation and respect.
We’re also joined tonight by Sabrina Peacock, a teacher from Guilford
County. Sabrina entered the classroom as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow
and 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 budget
would create $10,000 Best and Brightest scholarships for students who
commit to spending three to four years in the classroom, like Sabrina did.
I understand some legislators want to do this, too. Let’s find common
ground so we can get more of these great teachers. Thanks for bringing your
talents to the teaching profession, Sabrina!
In my talks with business owners, I hear time and again that they have job
openings, 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-tech
critical thinking skills, earned at our high schools, community colleges
To give people in the middle class more opportunity to afford higher
education, let’s pass a workforce program we call NC GROW - Getting Ready
for Opportunities in the Workforce. It means free community college—a
scholarship to cover last-dollar tuition and fees for recent high school
graduates to attend a North Carolina community college.
To earn it, young people have to make good grades and apply for
already-existing scholarships, loans and grant programs. It’s an idea that
Republican 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 that
the economy is rebounding, it’s time to make smart, strategic investments
in our people.
We cannot sacrifice education at the altar of even more corporate tax cuts
or giveaways that are mostly for the wealthiest. Changes to our tax code
need to focus on relief for working families – not corporations and
Next, let’s work together to get more money in the pockets of North
Carolina families by bringing and growing more good-paying jobs to our
state and to your legislative districts.
One of the most important steps that the legislature can take is to fund
our education budget. An educated workforce is a competitive workforce, and
companies are in a global search for talent. Let’s take advantage of our
There are other strategic steps we can take to make our state more
competitive – funding to prepare mega-sites to attract large-scale,
Workforce technical training that is more nimble and customized to what
companies say they need.
Encouraging more people to get into high-paying trades, like plumbing and
electrical work, or medical research and high tech engineering.
Incentives to bring the film industry back to North Carolina. Initiatives
to harness the innovation and entrepreneurship happening right now at our
world-class universities and in our cities.
Encouraging renewable energy which is already bringing good jobs to our
Providing help for small business. And a focus on rural broadband access,
which is a must for economic success in our rural communities. We cannot
leave them behind.
Tonight we’re joined by Charlotte Vick. Vick Family Farms in Wilson has
expanded its sweet potato crops in recent years and is rapidly increasing
production to meet global demand, including building a new 50,000 square
foot packaging facility.
Sixty percent of Vick Family Farms’ customer base is overseas and access to
broadband 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,
Finally, our economy is recovering. But our unemployment rate is still 5.3
percent, the same as last January, and that is still slightly above the
national average. Meanwhile, our Unemployment Trust Fund has grown to more
than two billion dollars.
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
The Governor and the legislature need to work together to get better-paying
jobs for North Carolina. We have good opportunities to make that happen in
the coming months.
We also need to see that North Carolinians are healthier. While we’ve made
progress in getting more people health insurance, we still have an alarming
gap in coverage that we’re all paying for with high-priced indigent care.
Yet there’s a new healthcare landscape in our country, filled with
uncertainty. We have to sit down and have serious discussions about
improving 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 a
doctor. We also have rural hospitals that struggle to stay open and provide
good health care across the state.
If we work together, we can improve the health of thousands of North
One of the most frightening developments in our country and state is the
opioid and substance abuse crisis. It threatens lives, rips apart families
and can create a shortage of qualified workers.
In my hometown of Nashville, North Carolina, Police Chief Tom Bashore is
working to combat this addiction crisis. Last February, Chief Bashore and
the Nashville Police Department launched the “Hope Initiative,” the first
program in North Carolina encouraging opioid addicts to walk into a police
station seeking treatment without fear of arrest.
Recognizing that addiction is a disease, Chief Bashore has engaged with the
community to eliminate the stigma surrounding opioid addiction and
encourage addicts to seek treatment. He knows that prevention is part of
strong and effective law enforcement. I’m proud to have Chief Bashore join
us here tonight. We must support his work and the work of those offering
treatment in communities across our state. Thanks, Chief!
My budget directs mental health and law enforcement funding in a
multi-pronged approach to combat the substance abuse crisis. This is an
area where we must find common ground to help our friends and neighbors
gripped by addiction.
Being healthy also means clean air and water. An emphasis on renewable
energy can achieve that, and it will help our economy sustain good-paying
jobs. 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 is
as easy or as quick as we want it to be, but I pledge to continue working
with North Carolina’s Congressional delegation and you in the General
Assembly to help residents rebuild in those 50 hard-hit counties.
We have made progress in a few key categories that I am pleased to report
to you tonight. In just the past couple of months, we’ve been able to
repair and reopen more than 100 roads, and help hundreds of families return
home or find other places to live.
But nearly 600 households are still in need of permanent housing. We will
not forget these families, and must keep working together to help them.
One thing that has become clear during the disaster recovery is the lack of
affordable, available housing in eastern North Carolina that has hindered
relocation efforts. That’s why I am asking you to work with me to restore
allowing the use of federal money for housing so we can start to build our
way out of this affordable housing shortage.
Tonight, we have a remarkable young lady with us who represents the very
best of our state’s resilient spirit. In 2015, before the storm,
12-year-old Mackenzie Hinson, from Grantham, founded “Make A Difference
Food Pantry” to help people in her community. After the devastation of
Hurricane Matthew, Mackenzie and her volunteers went into overdrive.
Following the hurricane, her pantry’s shelves were empty and friends and
family members lost homes.
But Mackenzie and her team were not deterred. With the help of businesses
and volunteers, they restocked and got to work.
After Hurricane Matthew, Make A Difference Food Pantry was open for 42
straight days, serving 6,914 hot meals and distributing food boxes and
toiletry items to over 8,000 people in Wayne, Johnston, and Sampson
Mackenzie, thank you for being here tonight and for being an inspiration.
By following your example, we will rebuild our communities and be a
stronger 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 to
You make the decision to sacrifice your privacy, time with family and in
some cases, your income, to be here. For that, I salute you.
When we take the oath of office, we take on the weight of tremendous
responsibility. A responsibility to uphold our constitution, in voting
laws, in classrooms, in health care. To act in the best interest of the
people 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 to
maintain North Carolina as a state of promise, I will make a few promises.
I promise to listen, to engage, to build consensus, to compromise when
possible. I promise to fight only when we can’t come to agreement or when
you leave me no choice. I promise to make sure state government employs
people who look like the people it represents.
To find the common ground we seek, let’s listen to North Carolinians urging
us to set aside divisive social issues and political power struggles.
Instead, let’s focus on teacher pay and jobs — the issues families face and
talk about every day around their kitchen tables.
Back in the late 1990s, this House was controlled by Republicans while I
was in the Senate, controlled by Democrats. We disagreed and fought. And I
spent many late nights here, talking and negotiating. But we found common
ground on raising teacher salaries to the national average. We found common
ground 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 health
care and the opioid epidemic. We can find common ground on raising the
juvenile age. We will find common ground on jobs, economic development and
further hurricane and wildfire recovery. We will find this agreement
because 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 bless
you, our country, and the great state of North Carolina.