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Bad Budget Bets: How Gov. Cooper’s Refusal to Compromise Has Cost Him

Gov. Roy Cooper’s refusal to compromise has cost him many of his key campaign priorities. In his most recent research brief, JLF’s Joe Coletti writes:

Cooper’s three priorities last year were Medicaid expansion, school construction, and teacher raises.  He has lost every big bet he’s placed to achieve these policy goals.

Coletti explains how, when Cooper exchanged his Medicaid transformation agenda for Medicaid expansion, he lost both:

He abandoned Medicaid transformation (for which Mandy Cohen and former Blue Cross CEO Patrick Conway were New York Times business section front-page heroes) in favor of a push for expansion. With transformation, he could have proven to be an advocate for the poor.  If Democrats made legislative gains in November, he could come back for expansion then. Instead, he put it on indefinite hold. Now there’s no money for transformation.  He vetoed a transformation mini-budget that also would have moved the headquarters of the NC Department of Health and Human Services to Granville. Instead, it remains at the Dorthea Dix Hospital site in Raleigh, putting at risk an agreement between the state and the city over the use of the land.

What’s more, his refusal to compromise on the budget has North Carolina entering the fiscal year with no spending plan and no call for reversions. Coletti explains:

It is less than a month before the fiscal year starts, and he has yet to offer a budget proposal, and instructions to state agencies for budget savings included no call to return unused funds to the state, i.e., reversions…

With no spending plan to offer and no call for reversions, Cooper is taking another risky bet on federal assistance.  Other states have used CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund money surreptitiously to fill holes even as they call them COVID-19 related. Cooper’s first proposed using other federal funds if it couldn’t use Relief Fund money.  This would mean adding more debt to the federal government or diverting money from its intended purpose, neither of which is a good idea. Add the potential for a major storm, and it’s clear Cooper expects that deferral will allow him to raise taxes if Democrats regain a legislative majority in November or force a newly-elected Gov. Dan Forest to make deep cuts.

Read Coletti’s full brief here. Learn about Gov. Cooper’s controversial use of the Emergency Powers Act here.

Brenee Goforth / Marketing and Communications Associate

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