In debates and speeches and campaign ads during 2016, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper laid out a detailed agenda.
While House Bill 2 might have dominated much of the conversation in the state’s closely contested governor’s race, it was far from the only topic that inspired criticisms and campaign promises from Cooper and the incumbent he defeated, Pat McCrory.
PolitiFact North Carolina kept track of promises both candidates made during the months-long campaign.
Now that Cooper has been sworn in, the fact-checkers have launched an online feature called the Coop-O-Meter to report whether he fulfills those promises.
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Some will no doubt be easier for Cooper to accomplish than others.
Some promises Cooper made will require him to get legislative support for positions with opposition among many of the Republicans who dominate the General Assembly, including:
▪ Expanding Medicaid, a goal that has already put Cooper in a legal squabble with legislators.
▪ Repealing HB2. The last attempt at repeal ended in failure a few weeks ago.
▪ Tuition-free community college, which former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue also promised but failed to deliver.
The less hard
Cooper promised to stop further cuts to education funding, which should be an area where he can generally find common ground with the General Assembly.
Both K-12 and higher education saw funding decreases due to the Great Recession. But now as both the national and state economies bounce back, and North Carolina’s population continues to boom, many politicians will be expecting more money to put toward education.
Republican leaders raised teacher salaries last year, and Cooper has said he wants more – promising to ultimately bring the state’s average teacher pay to the national average.
Cooper also had some outside-the-box ideas to keep track of.
He proposed getting private funding of $1 million or more to start a micro-loan program for aspiring entrepreneurs.
And he proposed offering state funds for individual school districts to audit their finances in order to “find savings to drive dollars to the classroom” – an idea that might appeal to teachers and conservative lawmakers alike.
Finally, Cooper made some promises that he should be able to accomplish without any legislative input.
Those include a series of promises aimed at reducing student debt, including a softball: using social media to inform borrowers about debt-relief programs.
His office shouldn’t have any problem starting a noncontroversial campaign like that on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any other social media platform du jour. But it will be more difficult to accomplish another related promise, to help student borrowers reduce their payments by starting a state-run refinancing authority.
Cooper also said he would reform scattered state services for small businesses, bringing them all together in one easy-to-find location. Other promises that could be relatively easy to accomplish include copying a Charlotte-Mecklenburg program to give school principals more flexibility and working with state education leaders to cut down on standardized testing.
At the start, the Coop-O-Meter will deem Cooper’s promises “Not Yet Rated.” As time goes on PolitiFact NC will update each promise to indicate whether it’s Stalled or In The Works. And once there is a result, a promise will earn a final rating of Compromise, Promise Kept or Promise Broken.
Many of the promises can be found on Cooper’s campaign website, ads or debates with McCrory. A few themes stick out, such as criticism of education spending and promises to restore that funding or fight against further cuts.
He proposed reforming the state lottery to put more of its proceeds toward education. In addition to higher teacher pay, he promised to expand pre-kindergarten and improve North Carolina’s overall per-student funding, without raising taxes to pay for it.
He promised to put more money into the UNC system – and that, in the process, he would also make college cheaper. And he promised a series of reforms and expansions to high school programs for teens who aren’t going to college to be better trained for modern-day blue-collar jobs.
On the economy, Cooper’s most high-profile promise that we’ll be tracking was to “work to bring back those jobs lost because of HB2” (which PolitiFact NC previously found amounted to at least 1,400 jobs).
Cooper also made a few specific tax promises, including restoring the film credit and vowing that, if there’s a budget surplus, he will restore a tax credit for child-care expenses.
Regarding small businesses and entrepreneurs, Cooper made numerous promises – including to send more state incentives funding to small businesses and to create new regionally focused economic development plans for the state.
Cooper also made several promises aimed at the quality of life in North Carolina – particularly for rural or low-income residents.
Medicaid expansion fits into that theme, as does his promise to “ensure” that access to high-speed wireless internet expands into all corners of the state.
There are many more promises to keep an eye on. Go to politifact.com/north-carolina/promises to see them all and for all the updates.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran
What is it? An online tool to track campaign promises made by Gov. Roy Cooper
Who does it? PolitiFact North Carolina, which is a partnership between PolitiFact and The News & Observer.
Where is it? politifact.com/north-carolina/promises
How thorough is it? The Coop-O-Meter is tracking nearly 40 promises Cooper made.