Cooper gives 2019 State of the State address to joint session

By David Larson | North State Journal

Flanked by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, left, and House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger, right, Gov. Roy Cooper delivers the biennial State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH — Members of the North Carolina legislature gathered in the state House chambers Monday night with other state officials and dignitaries to witness Gov. Roy Cooper give his biennual State of the State address.  

With many more members of his own party present after some gains in last years elections, Cooper said, The people of North Carolina are determined for us to work together. They have spoken. They want a more balanced approach to government. 

Cooper frequently returned to this theme of determination. In his closing moments, he brought these elements together, saying, Just like the people I met along the way, Im determined. Im determined to make our state better. I believe you are too. Starting tonight, lets figure out how to best serve those who sent us here. Theres nothing a determined North Carolina cant do.  

In this spirit of cooperative divided government, there were bipartisan ovations for much of the governors speech on issues like education and hurricane relief. Certain moments, like on eliminating coastal drilling and on climate change, received only applause from his Democratic colleagues.  

As Cooper called for an expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina, Republican response was mixed, with scattered applause from some seemingly receptive to a call the GOP has long resisted in the state. Cooper used a common Democratic argument that tax money is already leaving the state to cover this expansion in other states, so North Carolina is missing out on whats already theirs. 

Asking a doctor attending as his guest to stand, Cooper referenced this doctors work with the uninsured in Watauga County as support for expanding coverage.  

Dr. Adams believes that as soon as possible, we should expand Medicaid, Cooper said. Lets follow the doctors order. 

After Coopers speech, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockinghamgave the official Republican response.  

Pushing back on some of the governors critique of the Republican record on education, Berger said, Republicans have invested record-breaking sums in our states education system. Teachers have received pay raises for five consecutive years, and those raises were at or near the top in the entire country for three of those years. 

Much of Bergers response was aimed at Cooper for allegedly not acknowledging the Republican role in the large economic growth in the state. 

That philosophy has guided eight incredible years of growth and progress under Republican legislative leadership, and its that philosophy that will continue to guide us moving forward, Berger said. Effective governing also means dealing in facts, not fanciful and unrealistic hopes and dreams, and certainly not lodging insults to distract from the merits of an issue. And the facts of responsible Republican leadership are indisputable. Under those policies, graduation rates are up, incomes are higher, taxes are lower, and more people work today in North Carolina than any other time in state history. 

Cooper was escorted into the chamber by a bipartisan delegation from both the House and Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican who is Coopers likely 2020 challenger in the North Carolina governors race, presided over the joint session.