Gov. Roy Cooper took office in the context of endless comments from Republican legislative leaders and forecasts he’d get nothing done as governor against a veto-proof GOP majority. He even had to fight to gain his rightful place after petty delaying tactics by then-Gov. Pat McCrory, who lost his office in humiliating fashion, being ousted in a big Republican year.
Now, 100 days in, Cooper has made some important progress, though his legislative initiatives will of course face an uphill battle in the legislature , where GOP leaders want to give him nothing. And they are puffed up after what they see as a victory in adding their caveats to a repeal of HB2 (limits on localities passing anti-discrimination ordinances, for one). In fact, of course, the HB2 repeal was Cooper’s victory, a case of a leader putting the state’s best interest ahead of the hopes of his own political allies.
But make no mistake: Roy Cooper has in many ways turned the state in a positive direction. Though Republicans instituted a ridiculous confirmation process for his Cabinet choices (along with curbing his appointive power), Cooper’s picks are impressive. Just look at one: Mandy Cohen, a physician who has vast experience, will be Health and Human Services Secretary after dealing with complicated government programs on several levels. The complicated, sometimes troubled department needs serious attention, and she’ll provide it.
Cooper’s also not backing off of campaign issues that focus on children and working families along with teachers. All have been neglected, and Cooper knows he’ll have a struggle getting investment in child care and tax credits in that area, tuition-free community college and an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs. All are worthy ideas that would strengthen this state. Republicans have focused on tax cuts for the wealthy and for business.
It’s interesting that in a couple of areas Cooper may find bipartisan cooperation just because his ideas are so good. Republicans got rid of the Teaching Fellows program that provided forgivable student loans for those who taught in the state after graduation. The concept is likely to come back because of its popularity, and by the need to recruit more qualified teachers with incentives that might offset, at least a bit, inadequate pay.
And, Cooper supports the reversal of yet another foolish move from Republicans, cutting the state’s incentives for the film industry to make its products in North Carolina. The state’s program was in effect ruined when the GOP adopted a different, less effective program. The tax credits system that worked should be brought back full force.
The governor was a legislator and longtime attorney general, and he knows that deal-making is part of his job. But he is in office because his campaign agenda was a winning one, and sticking with it, as he should.