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Cooper urges public to push GOP on budget


Gov. Roy Cooper announces that he plans to veto a GOP-backed state budget at a June 28 news conference.


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Gov. Roy Cooper wants Republican leaders to return to the negotiating table, but all they are looking at is a way to keep state government running without a budget agreement and possibly go home, Cooper told The Daily Reflector Tuesday.

“It’s time for Republican leaders to stop trying to buy votes for a veto override and to start negotiating with Democratic leaders and me regarding a budget,” Cooper said in the telephone interview. “The people of North Carolina have signaled with their vote in 2018 that they want more balanced government but the Republican leadership is continuing to push a budget they want without real compromise.”

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that negotiations between Cooper and GOP lawmakers on a compromise have gone nowhere since June 28, when Cooper vetoed the two-year budget bill drawn up by Republicans.

The Republican have been trying to recruit Democrats to join the GOP majority to override the governor’s veto.

Cooper wants Medicaid expansion included in the budget. He said it would provide health insurance for 13,000 working people in Pitt County.

“Our tax money is being paid to Washington to ensure people in 37 other states, but not North Carolina. It’s passed time we do this,” he said.

Cooper said while he accept tax cuts for individuals, he doesn’t believe need another corporate tax cut is needed.

He wants to use that revenue to give public school teachers an 8.5 percent raise instead of the 3.8 percent raise in the legislative budget.

Public school personnel who aren’t teachers should get a 5 percent raise versus the 2 percent in legislative budget.

Cooper proposed Pitt Community College employees receive a 4 percent raise versus the 2 percent in the vetoed budget, and East Carolina University employees would get 5 percent instead of 1 percent.

Cooper said his proposal also includes the $215 million that is set aside for planning and building a new facility for ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, $28 million for research at Brody, $2.5 million for a food commercialization center in Ayden and money to fund a pre-trial release program in Pitt County and an investigative position for the county’s district attorney.

We shortchange the people of eastern North Carolina if we don’t try to negotiate for more,” he said.

“I think we can come away with a situation where everybody wins but what’s happening here is they are saying it’s my way or the highway,” Cooper said.

Senate leader Phil Berger of Rockingham County, a strong expansion opponent, said Tuesday that it’s clear Cooper won’t budge in negotiations on other matters unless there’s agreement that expansion will be approved, The Associated Press reported. The sides also are far apart on tax cuts, public school construction, and teacher and state employee raises — items that Berger said are being delayed because of Cooper.

“The legislature passed a budget and the governor is blocking that budget or any budget based on our conversations over his Medicaid-or-nothing ultimatum,” Berger told reporters, recalling a budget phone meeting with Cooper and other legislators late last week.

Cooper’s office pushed back, saying that there’s no such ultimatum and accused Republicans of spending too much time on an override that will fail. But, spokesman Ford Porter said, Medicaid must be part of any serious budget discussions. Some House Republicans are interested in a form of expansion that includes enrollee premiums and work requirements.

Cooper “believes leaders in both chambers must be willing to commit to a serious negotiation and path forward for Medicaid expansion as part of the budget process,” Porter wrote. “Thus far, Republicans have preferred gamesmanship, silly accusations and power games.”

Previous state law already directed that government keep operating at last year’s spending levels when the new fiscal year began July 1.

Now House and Senate Republicans are advancing competing stopgap measures to cover more spending needs. Their disagreements would have to be worked out before the funding contained within is approved and sent to Cooper’s desk.

The Senate’s budget committee approved a bill Tuesday that would simply direct how more than $1 billion in federal block grant funds would be distributed through state agencies — a perfunctory directive in each annual budget. It’s very different from what the full House approved last week in a stopgap measure, which included funds for public school enrollment growth this fall and for juvenile justice reforms.

If the standoff continues, GOP legislators also will have to decide whether to keep the General Assembly operating into the summer or leave while negotiations simmer. The Senate has offered a resolution to adjourn starting Monday and return in late August. Berger questioned whether it made sense to keep all legislators in Raleigh.

Moore told reporters Monday that he wasn’t inclined to go home.

“I think we’re going to be here until we get a resolution on the budget,” he said.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.