Meeting between Cooper, GOP leaders fails to narrow chasm

June 21, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A face-to-face meeting on Friday between North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the legislature’s top Republicans didn’t narrow the chasm separating their respective state budget views.

Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger and Democratic legislative leaders met at the Capitol building for almost an hour. Separate statements from Cooper’s office and the two GOP leaders afterward accused each other of being unwilling to compromise. Medicaid expansion remains the largest stumbling block.

The impasse doesn’t prevent House and Senate Republicans from fashioning their own final two-year spending plan. They aim to complete one next week, days before the new fiscal year begins July 1. Without Cooper’s buy-in, he’s likely to veto the proposal. A summer stalemate could be ahead if Democrats remain largely united and uphold the veto. Republicans still hold majorities in each chamber, but they’re no longer veto-proof.

The governor said school and infrastructure bonds and much higher teacher raises must be part of discussions in addition to expanding Medicaid, according to Cooper spokesman Ford Porter.

“These items are negotiable, but Republican leaders have nearly completed their budget and are unwilling to discuss all of these important priorities that benefit our state,” Porter said in a news release.

Moore and Berger complained the governor made no specific offers Friday beyond expansion and rejected their proposal of a special session to address health access issues, including expansion.

“The governor previously proposed a ‘two-track’ solution and wants Medicaid to be ‘part of the conversation.’ This meets both of those requests,” Berger and Moore said in a release.

Still, a special session wouldn’t require lawmakers to act on expansion, to which most Republicans remain strongly opposed.

Expansion under the 2010 federal health care law could provide hundreds of thousands of low-income people with Medicaid coverage, as well as inject money into struggling rural hospitals and economies.

Republicans cite financial uncertainty from Washington with Medicaid expansion and a preference to work on other health care access improvements. For example, Republicans seek next week to advance separate legislation that would offer state-funded loans to rural hospitals in financial crisis.

But expansion proposals floated in the legislature and by Cooper wouldn’t use state taxpayer funds to pay for the state’s portion.

Republicans in the two chambers also are divided on whether to borrow for school construction.

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