Governor Roy Cooper always had a strategy that was destined to fail. He wants to expand Medicaid. He knows Republicans who controlled the General Assembly are vehemently opposed to this proposal and have been for years. Gov. Cooper also knows that Republicans have the upper hand in any budget fight, due to majorities on both legislative chambers.
In 2016, legislative Republicans ended the threats of state government shutdowns – unlike the quagmire we see from Washington. Under the law passed in 2016, the current General Fund budget continues into the next fiscal year until replaced. There is no way to force an unwilling General Assembly to fund anything against their will.
Legislative Republicans passed a state budget that included many items supported by Governor Cooper, but not Medicaid expansion. Republicans included significant teacher raises of 4.4 percent over the biennium, and to further spur economic growth, Republicans included a modest tax cut by slightly increasing the standard deduction, as well as reducing the franchise tax on businesses.
Gov. Cooper wanted slightly larger teacher raises and no tax cuts. Republicans saw the tax cuts as key to keeping economic growth on track to grow the economy to pay for teacher raises now and in the future.
Later, Senate Republicans offered a new negotiating figure of 4.9 percent raises plus a $1,000 bonus if Senate Democrats voted to override the governor’s budget veto. The House was able to override the veto, but despite four Senate Democrats voting for the original budget, Republicans continue to be one vote short of an override.
Senator Phil Berger, Senate President Pro Tempore, has announced he sees no path forward due to the governor’s insistence on Medicaid expansion, as part of budget negotiations. Not only will a full session budget never be adopted, but Berger also says it is unlikely a secondary “updated” version of the budget, customarily passed in the election year “short session” will be adopted.
While much of the Republicans budget priorities have been enacted into law through stand-alone “mini-budget” bills, essential items remain unfunded, including critical funds to transform the Medicaid system to a managed care system (unrelated to Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion).
Vetoes don’t start negotiations. They conclude them.
While the threat of a veto can kick-start negotiations, an actual veto rarely does. A veto concludes end all horse-trading. It is the result of failed negotiations or a statement of opposition.
The liberal press will immediately blame Republicans and call on them to cave into the governor’s hostage-taking tactics.
No responsible legislative leader would do that.
The governor’s veto, and his poor negotiating tactics via the press, have made further deal-making on the issue impossible.
It would be legislative malpractice for the state Senate to now deal with Gov. Cooper on the budget issue for the foreseeable future. It would make negotiations on all contested matters more complicated. Senate Democrats would have every reason to walk away from the bargaining table before the bargaining ever begins and let the governor issue more vetoes.
Legislative leaders should fight for their institution for several reasons, not the least of which is the intent of the Framers’ of the state Constitution to have the branch of the people, the General Assembly, as the branch to control the state’s public policy agenda.
Lawmaking would take longer, be more contentious, less productive, and more expensive.
The governor knew that. The ill-named North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) that lobbied against the interest of its members should have known that as well.
The governor ended the chances for teacher raises. He precluded negotiations for the foreseeable future. Why?
And why did the state Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Dan Blue, go along for the ride?