Editorial: Unity needed to resolve critical needs highlighted in Cooper's address

Posted January 13, 2021 5:00 a.m. EST

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021; Editorial #8625
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Inaugural addresses are about broad themes and ambition. The speech delivered Saturday by Gov. Roy Cooper was true to form.

Many of those themes carry a strong bloodline from governors, Democrats and Republicans. going back to Terry Sanford. They include: Strengthening the state’s infrastructure to move people and products; Fulfilling the state Constitutional mandate for universal access to quality public education; Assuring health care to those in need; Maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment; and Providing a high quality of life and opportunities for all to prosper.

Cooper talked of the “cycle of challenge-and-response” that confronts the state. He noted how 100 years ago, the state emerged from a deadly pandemic with unprecedented growth in manufacturing jobs that provided “reliable wages for the first time to thousands of North Carolinians.”

But now North Carolina finds itself more in the “challenge” part of that cycle. Cooper’s accurately identified needed responses. While the specific details can be discussed and debated, state policy makers and legislators need to unite on the “most important challenges” the governor highlighted.

“Educating our people.” North Carolina’s education officials and other advocates, through the Leandro lawsuit, have arrived at a court-ordered roadmap that will assure every child in the state has access to a quality public education – an obligation promised in our state Constitution. The implementing legislation needs to be enacted and necessary funding provided.

“Ensuring that every North Carolinian gets health care.” It is past time for the General Assembly to repeal it’s ban on expanding Medicaid. It is heartless to deny health coverage to more than 600,000 North Carolinians who need it – especially during this pandemic and resulting high unemployment.

“Emerging from this pandemic smarter and stronger.” Many of the state’s challenges responding to the pandemic emanate from shortcomings and poor execution on the federal level. Still, there are many things the state can and needs to do.  As Dr. Mandy Cohen, Cooper’s Health and Human Services Secretary, identifies those shortcomings and ways to improve services, legislators need to be ready to provide the resources to implement them.

One critical need exposed by the pandemic has been the state’s unemployment benefits. North Carolina’s benefits are among the shortest and lowest in the nation. They should be, at least, brought to the national average.  More needs to be done to help workers who were suddenly thrust into unemployment make sure they can feed, house and keep their families healthy until the economy rebounds and jobs return.

“Forming a more perfect North Carolina, where every person has opportunity and access to the liberty that they deserve and our laws promise.” The task force on racial justice Cooper established, and was headed by Attorney General Josh Stein and state Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, has produced a wide-ranging series of recommendations worthy of consideration and implementation.

Cooper offered a good admonition to accomplish, in the coming weeks, what should be mutually shared objectives and goals.

“We can acknowledge and work around our differences while refusing to sacrifice truth and facts at the altar of ideology,” he said.

“Let’s reach together: To find ways all North Carolinians can afford to see a doctor; To get a quality education and a good paying job; To reform our systems that hurt people of color and to live and work in an economy that leaves no one behind, no matter who they are or where they live.”

Now get to work and do it.

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