Budget proposal get final legislative OK; veto likely next
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Republican-controlled General Assembly gave final approval on Thursday to its North Carolina government budget agreement and sent it to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who is likely to veto it.
The House and Senate voted for the two-year spending plan in separate votes, with the margins in favor of the plan similar to Wednesday’s preliminary votes in each chamber.
While Cooper has 10 days to decide on the budget measure at his desk, the governor scheduled a Friday morning news conference at the Executive Mansion, with the budget as the topic. A Cooper veto will be upheld if Democrats largely remain united on future override votes and stick to their current levels of support in the House.
“At that point, we have to start over,” said Rep. Graig Meyer, an Orange County Democrat, before the 64-49 vote in the House. “After the veto, it’ll be back in our hands.”
Cooper and his Democratic allies are unhappy the measure hammered out by GOP leaders doesn’t expand Medicaid to more low-income adults, which the governor’s been pushing for since taking office in 2017. He also doesn’t like that Republicans reduced corporate tax rates further when he said the lost revenues could have been used to raise teacher school salaries much higher.
And instead of proposing bonds for school construction, the budget would spend tax funds. Republicans said the pay-as-you-go funding is the smarter way to go and avoids paying interest while spending $4.4 billion on K-12 construction over the next 10 years.
While the Senate had no further debate on Thursday before a 33-15 vote, House members kept at it, with Democrats complaining about what’s present or absent from the nearly 400-page budget bill.
“I look for a good novel a lot of times,” Wake County Democratic Rep. Yvonne Holley quipped, but the budget “was a mediocre novel with little or no socially redeeming value.”
Republican budget-writers said their Democratic counterparts were ignoring all the good things in the plan, including 2.5% annual raises for state employees and pay increases for teachers. Neither will go forward when the new fiscal year begins next week if there’s no enacted budget, said Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Forsyth County Republican.
On Medicaid expansion, Senate Republicans are more adamantly opposed to the idea than counterparts in the House, where some GOP legislators have proposed offering coverage to low-income residents who agree to premiums and work requirements.
As a proposed concession to Cooper, the budget proposal encourages Cooper to call a special session to consider health care legislation, including expansion But that hasn’t been enough to sway most Democrats to vote for the GOP budget.
“We can and should have that debate and other ways to improve health care here in North Carolina,” House Majority Leader John Bell of Wayne County told colleagues. “But holding up an entire state budget because it doesn’t include Medicaid expansion? It’s not fair to the people we serve.”
Any override vote wouldn’t happen until July 8 at the earliest, since the House plans to take off next week for the July 4 holiday.