Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the conservative-leaning think tank, the John Locke Foundation, said the Governor’s call for bipartisanship in the legislature was combined with a call for prioritizing things that stand in opposition with what Republicans in North Carolina have valued in the past.
“While he spoke a lot about bipartisanship, many of the goals he put forward stand in direct contrast to the types of things Republicans have been pursuing in leadership in the General Assembly,” Kokai said.
Kokai said Cooper has been able to work with Republicans in the General Assembly on a few things, such as economic development and hurricane relief efforts, but his overall relationship with Republican lawmakers remains poor.
“While the State of the State speech offers an olive branch to legislative leaders, it’s not a very hearty branch,” Kokai said.
Kokai said the priorities discussed in Cooper’s address are fairly consistent with the goals he’s had since beginning his campaign for governor. He said he expects the school construction bond will be a major topic of debate in the General Assembly this year. Cooper and the N.C. House are advocating for a bond for K-12 and university construction, while the Senate prefers a pay-as-you-go system.
He said he thinks Cooper will continue to push for legislation that aids in the fight against climate change, but said the General Assembly has not shown signs of seeing climate change as a major issue that needs addressing.
Sarah Flowers, deputy press secretary for the N.C. Democratic Party, said the Governor’s discussion of both recovering from the storms that hit the state last fall and preparing for changing climate, showed a resilient vision for how to make the state stronger.
“I think he focused on some really strong, commonsense priorities,” Flowers said.
Flowers said she thinks the Governor’s plans for investing in public education, expanding health care, fighting climate change and boosting the economy will be addressed in the General Assembly this year, a more feasible prospect following the 2018 midterm elections.
“The supermajority is broken in the General Assembly, and so Republicans are going to have to come to the table on some of this stuff,” Flowers said. “These issues matter to North Carolinians. We saw that in the results of the elections when we did break the supermajority.”
Flowers said she hopes to see more conversations, healthy debate and bipartisanship in the general assembly this year.
Ultimately, Kokai said, the State of the State is a speech that is designed to send a message to lawmakers and North Carolinians. He said he hopes the Governor both is serious about working with the General Assembly and willing to give a little if he expects to get some of his goals accomplished.
“It’s one thing to give a speech like that, and it’s another to actually get down to the brass tacks of negotiating with lawmakers,” Kokai said.