Roy Cooper hurried to be sworn into office, taking the oath of office as North Carolina’s governor at the earliest possible moment – midnight on Jan. 1 – instead of waiting another week for his formal inaugural ceremony.
Cooper’s 100th day in office is Monday. In a bit more than three months in office, he has run into a court setback in his effort to expand Medicaid, tried to fend off attempts by the General Assembly to reduce his power, and faced criticism from both the left and the right over a compromise to repeal and replace House Bill 2.
“The beginning wasn’t particularly auspicious,” said Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University. “And I think the first 100 days has been kind of dominated by two things. The first is the separation of powers struggle … and then the other of course is the struggle of HB2.”
Ken Eudy, Cooper’s senior adviser, emphasized what he said were more positive aspects of the Democratic governor’s first 100 days.
For instance, he said, Cooper is having the exact kind of debate he wants to have with lawmakers over teacher pay – arguing not over whether to raise it, but by how much.
The governor is also making progress on other campaign themes, Eudy said, like expanding access to pre-kindergarten, making community college tuition-free, getting state and federal funding for survivors of last fall’s Hurricane Matthew and prioritizing tax relief that he thinks will help the working class – like reinstating an income tax credit for child-care costs that the General Assembly got rid of in 2013.
None of that is yet a done deal, but Cooper included all those policies and more in the two-year budget proposal he released March 1.
“His priority is for North Carolinians to be healthier, more educated and have more money in their pockets,” Eudy said.
In a sign of the resistance Cooper may face from legislative Republicans, Senate leader Phil Berger countered Cooper’s first State of the State address last month with a response speech that called Cooper’s agenda “a mirage” and “a retreat to our troubled past,” and jabbed at him over his close race with former Gov. Pat McCrory.
“Across the state, Republican legislators received hundreds of thousands more votes than their Democratic opponents. Yet Roy Cooper, who squeaked into office by a mere 10,000 votes, has treated his election as a mandate to fight Republicans rather than an opportunity to work together,” Berger said in his response.
Among Cooper’s first actions was a plan to expand Medicaid health-insurance coverage, which required federal approval. Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore sued, contending the plan violated a 2013 state law. The issue is bottled up in court.