Cooper lays out goals, challenges lawmakers in inaugural address
Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday that a slippery mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain may have disrupted his inauguration but would not stop him from tackling the problems facing North Carolina.
“There’s a lot we can accomplish, and I can’t wait to get started,” Cooper said as he delivered his address solo from the Executive Mansion rather than to the planned crowd outside the North Carolina State Archives building.
The newly sworn-in Democratic governor’s remarks blended offers to reconcile with political opponents and direct challenges to Republican leaders who hold super-majorities in the state House and state Senate.
“Now is not the time to point fingers or dwell on recent battles,” Cooper said. “The people of this state are tired of yesterday’s politics. You expect – and deserve – public servants who reject cynicism, who don’t succumb to political paralysis, who negotiate differences in good faith.”
The 2016 election was particularly hard fought, with Cooper and former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory regularly accusing one another of corrupt and incompetent behavior. Cooper edged McCrory by a little more than 10,000 votes, but a final outcome was delayed by weeks as McCrory and his allies pursued allegations of voter fraud. Once Cooper was confirmed as the winner, legislative Republicans took steps to limit his power to appoint certain government officials.
Cooper has since moved to overturn some of those changes in court.
Although Cooper offered to bury the hatchet in his inaugural speech, he did not back off demands that lawmakers repeal House Bill 2, the state’s controversial law restricting LGBT rights, or his efforts to expand the state’s Medicaid program despite state laws curbing his authority to do so.
“It’s long past time to expand Medicaid so more working North Carolinians can get the health care they need. It just makes common sense. It will create tens of thousands of jobs,” Cooper said.
Legislative Republicans harshly criticized that move earlier this week.
“Just days into his term as governor, Roy Cooper already intends to violate his oath of office with a brazenly illegal attempt to force a massive, budget-busting ‘Obamacare’ expansion on North Carolina taxpayers,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement.
Along with expanding Medicaid and repealing House Bill 2, Cooper said that he would like to use the next state budget to pour more money into education. He wound up his speech by calling for the state to do more for those families and businesses affected by Hurricane Matthew.
“Now, even months after the water has receded, many families are still trying to get back above it,” Cooper said. “We need to make sure we help them recover. That’s the North Carolina way.”