CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Roy Cooper unveiled his economic plan Wednesday, promising that if elected he’ll work to expand Medicaid and broadband access, cut taxes for the middle class, pass a transportation bond and repeal the law on discrimination known as House Bill 2.
The sitting attorney general, who released his proposal at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, said he’ll also try to attract more business to rural areas and train workers for today’s high-tech manufacturing jobs.
Cooper repeated his criticisms of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory for signing a tax overhaul he says benefited the wealthiest the most, and for failing to invest enough in public education, from kindergarten through college.
“We must measure success based on how hard-working families are doing, not just those at the top,” Cooper said in a release. “I will be a governor who works to create economic opportunity for all. I will focus on helping incomes rise, putting more money back in the pockets of middle-class families and encouraging small businesses to start up and grow.”
Supporters say expanding Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of uninsured working people would generate health care jobs and revitalize rural hospitals by leveraging a relatively small amount of state money.
The Republican-led General Assembly voted in early 2013 to prevent any such expansion without its approval.
House Bill 2, approved by the legislature and McCrory in March, limits anti-discrimination rules for LGBT people and says transgender people must use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their birth certificates. Cooper said this has discouraged businesses from looking to build or expand in North Carolina.
“We have lost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars because of Gov. McCrory’s partisan political agenda, with H.B. 2 at the top,” Cooper wrote in his jobs plan.
Cooper’s plan cites figures showing North Carolina’s personal income growth is the lowest in the Southeast, and says McCrory’s tax overhaul has increased the services subject to regressive sales taxes.
McCrory’s campaign downplays the economic impact of House Bill 2 and accuses Cooper of trying to mislead the public. Income tax rates have dropped, the unemployment rate is just 5 percent, and there has been a net increase of nearly 280,000 private-sector jobs since McCrory took office in early 2013, they say.
Cooper “continues to denigrate North Carolina and lie about the progress made over the past three years under Gov. McCrory’s leadership,” the governor’s campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz wrote in an email. He said Cooper’s plan lacks new ideas and would return the state to being uncompetitive for jobs.
Cooper didn’t say just how he’d cut taxes, but said future revenue gains would go to reinstate a child care tax credit that was eliminated earlier this decade. Cooper also wants to restore a film-production tax credit, which Republicans determined was too expensive and replaced with a grant program.
The attorney general also would create a program to provide short-term “micro loans” to small businesses looking to expand, and allocate more taxpayer-funded economic incentives to businesses of fewer than 200 workers
Both McCrory and Cooper support a bond for transportation projects to create jobs and improve infrastructure. A $2 billion bond referendum approved by voters in March did not include road projects.