Republicans in North Carolina have usurped democracy once again.
After three months of waiting, the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly held a surprise vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget last week.
At the time the vote was called, 39 House Democrats were absent. The final vote count was 55-15, with all Democrats in attendance voting against it.
According to some Democrats, House leadership had previously announced there would be no votes that morning — so they were especially surprised when Republicans called the biggest vote of all.
The vote was taken while at least one Democratic legislator, as well as Cooper, attended 9/11 memorial events.
It should only be expected that a General Assembly constructed by extreme partisan gerrymandering would lack democratic ideals; but never has the trickery been so outright. Never has it been more apparent that North Carolinians deserve better than these representatives who, though skilled in deceit and self-preservation, betray the basic ethics underpinning functional democracies.
But the consequence of overriding Cooper’s budget veto extends beyond just signaling Republicans’ abandonment of fairness and decency in N.C. politics. As the General Assembly voted without the full representation of their body, they also voted against the greater interest of their constituents — voting for a budget with tax cuts for the wealthy, but without teacher salary increases, without school resource funding and without the expansion of Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid would insure half a million people in North Carolina’s coverage gap, people living between $8,935 a year for a family of three to $28,676 who are not eligible for federal insurance. The state's healthcare industry would gain 50,000 jobs. The cost to the state? Nothing — the federal government commits to 90 percent of expansion funding and state health providers have offered to pay the remaining 10 percent, simply because expanding Medicaid isn’t just empathetic, it’s good business.
Instead, this Republican budget cuts taxes for millionaires 85 times what a working family receives, at a cost of $1.1 billion to the state. Offsetting the tax cut was a difference in education spending. Republicans offered only $470 million for teacher salaries in their budget, paling in comparison to Cooper’s $810 million request.
Republicans’ override will likely not pass the Senate chamber barring a similar trick, as Republicans no longer hold a supermajority in either legislative body. Optimistically, the national outrage sparked by the Sept. 11 vote could give Democrats more donors and greater leverage in budget negotiations. Since the budget saga between Cooper and the N.C. GOP will most likely continue, Republicans may be keen to salvage their damaged optics.
Yet, more likely, the Republican leadership could believe this scheme will bear little consequence, that even the most obvious corruption will remain invisible to apathetic voters. In a half-empty House chamber Wednesday morning, Rep. Deb Butler, D-Brunswick, New Hanover, adamantly chanted “I will not yield!” In an ideal world, inspired leaders would inspire us all to vote — but it in our state, we must confront the lies and channel Republican’s corruption into strengthening our civic participation, because in North Carolina, none of us can yield.
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