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CJ Reports: Legislature’s piecemeal budget plan could put governor on defense

This week, Carolina Journal’s Brooke Conrad wrote an article on the current budget impasse in North Carolina. According to Conrad:

Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper insists Medicaid expansion be included in the General Fund budget, and the Republican-dominated General Assembly unequivocally refuses. Lawmakers passed a budget bill and sent to it the governor, who vetoed it June 28.

Republicans plan to pass a budget anyway. One piece at a time.

Republicans have already started using this method to pass budget measures. Conrad explains:

The General Assembly first attempted provision won unanimous approval from the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee on Wednesday, Aug. 21. The move would raise salaries for state employees in prisons by 2.5% each of the next two years and also grant five additional leave days. Supporters say the bill would help alleviate prison staffing issues.

The measure passed the Senate Rules Committee Thursday. It should reach the full Senate early next week.

Conrad explains the thought process behind this method:

The hope is that Cooper will have no choice but to approve these most pressing provisions, or risk damaging his reputation with voters. Saying no to pay increases for teachers, state workers, and prison employees — even in the name of Medicaid expansion — doesn’t pass the eye test. 

However, Conrad notes, the General Assembly members are at a slight disadvantage in this situation:

Gridlocks like these usually put the General Assembly at a disadvantage with the governor, [NCSU political science professor Andy] Taylor said. In contrast with Cooper, who works year-round for full-time pay, legislators make a part-time salary of $13,951, plus $104 each day they’re in session. They often have outside responsibilities, too.

According to Taylor, however, General Assembly members are not helpless in the budget negotiations:

“Republicans in the General Assembly can say, ‘Let’s have a fight or negotiation about Medicaid expansion some other time. Why are you holding the budget hostage?’” Taylor said. “It gives them initiative again in this debate. I think it will be hard to veto stand-alone pay raises.”

Read the full story here. Learn more about the budget impasse here.

Brenee Goforth / Marketing and Communications Associate

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