The state budget is still in limbo following Governor Roy Cooper’s veto last month. Republicans delayed an override vote earlier this week, attempting to build enough support.
Differences between the two parties over health insurance may lead to a longer stalemate – but there are signs of a developing compromise.
Cooper spoke to the media Tuesday morning about the current state of discussions of the Republicans’ proposed budget. After vetoing the bill over its lack of Medicaid expansion, he said he’s been working on a compromise plan he said might lead to more negotiations on healthcare improvement.
“We’d been saying a lot of things to the legislature in general because we had no idea what [the Republicans’] budget was going to be,” said Cooper. “Now we know and now we’re able to offer specific compromise that Republican leaders ought to consider. We’d love to sit down, talk about it, and entertain a counteroffer.”
Cooper said he believes the two sides have not had direct negotiations because Republican leadership is focused on overriding his veto as the primary strategy to pass their budget. Although the governor said he expects to have enough votes to defeat an override, he wants the Republicans to accept compromise and prevent starting from scratch.
“This is what the people want: real negotiation,” Cooper said. “We’re making the first step here with a real compromise proposal that comes down from my original budget and finds a place in the middle.”
House Democrat Graig Meyer says real negotiation is what he wants too. The Orange County representative says he and Cooper opposed the GOP budget for similar reasons, and he’s critical of state Republicans for not having bipartisan discussions.
“I’m disappointed that we all saw this coming as early as last year’s election,” says Meyer, “or earlier in the year as the Governor put out his expectation that any budget going to get his signature this year needed to have Medicaid expansion in it. The Republicans have refused to negotiate that point for a whole year, they passed a budget without it, and now we’re in the veto [stage]. We could have predicted this a long time ago and it seems kind of ridiculous that we walked into this stalemate.”
Republicans in the House are now attempting to pass their own Medicaid expansion bill, which Meyer says signifies how that chamber realizes the importance of healthcare improvement. That bill advanced out of a House committee Tuesday; Senate Republican leaders, though, have been against the idea of any expansion.
Meyer says he’s not convinced House Republicans would lose an override vote – but if they did, he hopes it drives the party to negotiate across the aisle. While he expects it would not lead to a completely new budget being constructed, Meyer says a long delay would set back important funding.
“I think there really has to be a willingness on the part of Republican legislative leaders to negotiate with us as Democrats and figure out where we go from here,” says Meyer. “They wasted a lot of time without doing what legislators are elected to do, which is work across the aisle to figure out how to solve the state’s problems.”
The deadline to finalize the state budget already passed once the fiscal year began on July 1. Until the new one is approved, the state is operating under last year’s budget.