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Thursday September 29th

Despite little movement on state budget, stand alone spending measures move to Cooper

General Assembly building in Raleigh.
Buy Photos General Assembly building in Raleigh.

Despite the North Carolina budget issues, the General Assembly recently sent several spending measures to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. 

A negotiation to pass the budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year never came to fruition, but now the General Assembly is trying to pass smaller budget bills that both parties agree upon. 

On Oct. 9, the N.C. House approved funding for new transportation initiatives and the community college system. 

Similarly, the N.C. Senate voted on funding judgeship positions due to the increase in the number of juvenile offenders entering the system. 

N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Caswell, Orange, said he was frustrated with how the majority Republican legislature refuses to cooperate with Cooper and with the budget's prolonged stalemate. 

“The Republicans are trying to override the veto, even though it’s taking months, rather than sitting down with the governor and legislative Democrats to negotiate a budget that we can all agree upon,” Meyer said. 

After the House voted to override Cooper’s veto on Sept. 11, the battle shifted to the Senate, which has not tried to override the veto.

Teacher pay and school construction financing have not been enacted, Meyer said, and health care is one of the controversial items that has also yet to be passed. 

One of the limited budget bills that the legislature has voted on was a pay raise for most government workers. Meyer emphasized his disappointment that this didn’t include pay raises for teachers.

Meyer said increases to teacher pay and school funding were still at the center of debate, and teachers would receive no additional funding until the new bill was enacted. 

Rob Schofield, director of N.C. Policy Watch, said the only way to get the budget passed is total negotiation, which he said didn’t seem likely.

“(Negotiation) is the kind of governance that North Carolinians voted for in 2018 when they ended the Republican legislative supermajorities that had existed until that time,” Schofield said. “Unfortunately, such a scenario seems unlikely.”

If the Senate overrides the veto, however, the budget Cooper rejected will become a law. But the state can continue to be funded at prior-year levels without an updated budget signed into effect.

Brian Balfour, executive vice president of Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, said the governor and legislative leaders continuously point the finger at each other, causing nothing to happen. However, he praised the bipartisan effort to pass noncontroversial mini-budgets. 

“This is a pretty unprecedented event in recent memory,” Balfour said.

Cooper’s insistence of expanding Medicaid funding, he said, was the reason it was such a controversial budget. 

“Legislative leaders have offered to come to terms on a budget bill that does not include expansion to be followed by a special session addressing healthcare issues,” he said. 

The majority of the bills the General Assembly has passed provide additional funding that wasn't from the last fiscal year, he said. The governor has not signed all of the bills.


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