RALEIGH – Entering the last week of July, the first month of a new fiscal year for the State of North Carolina, we are still without a state budget. Well, to be precise, the General Assembly passed a biennial budget, yet Governor Roy Cooper is refuses to sign a budget that doesn’t include an expansion of Medicaid in the Old North State.
Republican legislative leaders, meanwhile, continue pointing out what is caught in the cross-hairs of this crisis manufactured by Cooper.
Teacher raises, business tax cuts, school construction funding are some of those things being blocked by Cooper’s political obstinacy. Republican lawmakers, who have even promised to hold a special session to consider Cooper’s Medicaid demands, kept beating the drum Tuesday.
It has been 25 days since Governor Cooper vetoed the bipartisan $24 billion state budget because it does not include his demands for expanding government-run Medicaid in North Carolina. In the meantime, the Governor’s “Medicaid-or-nothing” strategy on the budget is denying key resources to those in need, especially in rural communities across North Carolina.
Deputy House Majority Leader Brenden Jones (R-Columbus), whose community is still waiting for hurricane recovery assistance from the Cooper Administration, slammed the Governor for holding the budget hostage and once again putting partisan politics ahead of the people of rural North Carolina (emphasis added):
“It is beyond frustrating that the Governor would choose to play politics with something as important as our state’s budget, which includes critical resources for things like hurricane recovery for our rural communities. My community is still waiting for the Governor to deliver funds for Hurricane Matthew nearly three years after the storm made landfall. Yet, he is willing to use these much needed resources as leverage to force Medicaid expansion. This marks a new low for the Governor and I hope the people of rural North Carolina do not forget.”
As mentioned above, Republican leaders continue to ask the Governor to have a separate debate on Medicaid expansion – and not tie it together with something as important as the state’s budget. They point to the fact that the budget passed by the General Assembly already includes a special provision that allows the Governor to call the legislature back for a special session this fall to discuss health care and Medicaid expansion.
Cooper may have thought he had the leverage, especially with all of the Left-leaning media helping him spin the anti-Republican narrative, to force Republican majorities into concessions for fear of having a budget standoff. He seems to have underestimated them, and Republican voters should be at least a little encouraged that the legislative leadership is taking a stand and digging their heels in.
And they can afford to stand their ground. Even with out a budget, funding for state programs and things like teacher salaries continues at previous budget levels. The last thing they should do is capitulate to Cooper’s Big Government demands.
Still, assuming the budget standoff is resolved, there is some worry that Republicans in the General Assembly, the House in particular, are a little too sympathetic to the notion of expanding healthcare entitlements in the Old North State. That bridge will be crossed when they get to it, but for now it seems to be a game of who blinks first.
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