Laying out his own jobs plan Wednesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper blasted Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s “Carolina Comeback” as well as his support for House Bill 2.
The “Carolina Comeback,” a dramatic drop in unemployment along with the addition of nearly 300,000 jobs, is the centerpiece of McCrory’s re-election campaign. He has touted the nation’s “fastest-growing economy,” a claim backed by Politifact.
But at a news conference at Central Piedmont Community College, Cooper argued that while the economy has improved across the country, most North Carolinians haven’t seen the benefits.
“The truth is his ‘Carolina Comeback’ has benefited those at the top and done little for working families,” Cooper said. “… Simply because there are more jobs doesn’t mean that they’re better-paying jobs and people are making more money. That has to be our measure of success.”
Cooper, the attorney general, said HB2 has cost the state “thousands of jobs and hundreds of million dollars” in investments. McCrory, he said, “doesn’t believe it’s a problem.” HB2 requires people in government facilities to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said Cooper “continues to denigrate North Carolina and lie about the progress made over the past three years under Gov. McCrory’s leadership.”
“You’d almost forget he’s been a politician serving inside state government for the past 30 years. His plan has no new ideas and would only take us back to the high tax, big government days of the past that left us uncompetitive as a state for jobs.”
The debate underscores the continued importance of the economy as an issue in the governor’s race.
When McCrory was elected in 2012, the unemployment rate was 9 percent, down from a high of 10.3 percent at the height of the recession. In May, it was 5.1 percent, slightly higher than the national unemployment rate.
And the administration says it has added more than 280,000 jobs since McCrory took office.
But Cooper cited figures showing that North Carolina has the southeast’s lowest growth of personal income. And he said growth has been unbalanced. Most new jobs have gone to urban counties, while 55 of the state’s 100 counties have fewer jobs than they did before the recession.
Cooper’s job plan includes better workforce preparedness, including more apprenticeship programs, more investment in transportation and broadband infrastructure, Medicaid expansion, middle-class tax cuts, restoration of the state film tax credits and repeal of HB2.
“You have to decide what is your measure of success for North Carolina,” Cooper said. “And my measure of success is putting more money in the pockets of everyday working people.”