Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the N.C. General Assembly and other state leaders tonight in his fourth State of the State address. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson provided the GOP’s response immediately afterward in a pre-recorded speech.
Cooper highlighted that North Carolina was named State of the Year for Business in 2022, according to CNBC and Business Facilities. He also emphasized the achievements of the state’s clean energy sector, citing electric vehicle manufacturing locations in Durham, Chatham and Randolph counties.
“North Carolina is now a clean energy destination, bringing good paying manufacturing jobs to parts of our state that, years ago, knew more factory closures than ribbon cuttings,” Cooper said.
The state’s workforce is reliant on the success of its public schools, he said. Cooper said his budget proposal for this year would include giving teachers and school employees double-digit raises and providing a solution for bus driver shortages — all without raising taxes.
Cooper also spoke on the state’s youth mental health crisis.
“I’ve already directed tens of millions of dollars to this critically important effort, including mental health first aid that helps teachers and school staff recognize the signs of a child in crisis,” Gov. Cooper said.
In addition to his concerns about youth mental health, Cooper said children in North Carolina are 51 percent more likely to die from gun violence than children in the U.S. as a whole.
“If you support the responsible gun ownership that we are granted under the Second Amendment, as I do, then we cannot accept this,” Cooper said.
Cooper also pointed out state investments in broadband and clean water infrastructure, child care and workforce development.
He invited several North Carolinians to highlight these issues, including Rhonda Rivers, a child care center director; Russell Devane, an advocate for clean water in Ivanhoe, N.C.; and Meredith Draughn, an elementary school guidance counselor.
He also invited Kim Schwartz, the CEO of Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center, and Phyllis Pillmon, who receives telemedicine care through the health center, to highlight reliable broadband in rural North Carolina.
Cooper also urged the N.C. Supreme Court to uphold the court's precedent in the Leandro-adjacent case it is currently considering. He said the court should allow the transfer of money towards education in the state to uphold the state constitution’s requirement of providing students with a “sound, basic education.”
Robinson, who is widely expected to run for governor in 2024, began the Republican response to Cooper’s remarks with his story of overcoming adversity early in life.
“Like my own personal journey, our state has experienced both hardship and victory,” Robinson said.
Robinson then praised Republican leadership in the General Assembly. The GOP has held a majority in both houses of the legislature since 2010.
He said Republicans have implemented “common sense” economic reforms and have taken the state from being billions of dollars in debt to becoming an economic powerhouse.
“If the Democrats have their way, they'll pull us back into an era of government overreach, high taxes and attacks on our personal freedoms,” Robinson said.
Robinson, a former member of the state board of education, spoke for several minutes on education reform.
He said teachers should be paid “like the professionals they are” and that teachers should not be forced to be police officers, social workers and parents.
“Their job is to teach, plain and simple,” Robinson said. “What should they be teaching our students? They should be teaching our students how to think, not what to think — ensuring that personal or political ideologies stay out of the classroom and that we get back to the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.”
North Carolina’s Libertarian Party also responded on Twitter. The party criticized Cooper’s handling of the pandemic and argued that a “sound, basic education” cannot be achieved through the additional spending of tax dollars.
“Children will be best served when they are able to choose their school and to choose where they spend their money,” one of the tweets said. “Reduce our taxes from where they are now, and give the children a real choice. Families know what is best for their children.”
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