The state’s health secretary said she was disappointed by Wednesday’s surprise N.C. House vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget, saying the budget includes cuts to her department that would affect such things as restaurant inspections and child protective services.

In the statement, Dr. Mandy Cohen said the budget “harms the people of North Carolina and fails to protect basic health and safety services that millions of people take for granted.”

The state budget bill, House Bill 966, would cut $73 million from the budget of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. During budget negotiations, the cuts were removed in House Bill 555, a stopgap bill that would have provided funding to move forward with plans to change how the state handles its Medicaid program. Both bills were vetoed by Cooper. In a surprise vote Wednesday, when most Democrats were not in the chamber, the House voted to override Cooper’s vetoes of the bills, leaving in the cuts to DHHS.

“In a time of a ($896 million) surplus, this budget makes massive cuts to DHHS that will potentially impact everything from health inspections of restaurants to the safety of drinking water to child protective services.”

Language in HB966 says the cuts are justified because of projected lower administrative costs related to the shift toward prepaid health plans.

Republican legislative leadership made clear in HB555, and other so-called mini-budget bills designed to free up funding during the budget stalemate, that the bills would become void when the state budget was signed into law.

Unless there are negotiations over the DHHS budget cuts in the Senate, the cuts appear likely to go forward.

It may be possible that the $73 million in funding cuts could be removed in a House technical corrections bills if the state budget clears Cooper’s veto in the Senate.

The veto of HB555 and the state budget held up to $218 million in start-up financing for the Medicaid changes, which was scheduled to begin Nov. 1 in the Triad and Triangle, and Feb. 1 statewide. Because of the budget stalemate, DHHS has moved the startup date to Feb. 1 for the entire state.

The override of the HB996 veto passed 55-9, while the override of HB555 passed 55-10.

Both vetoes have been sent to the Senate, which has a 29-21 Republican advantage, which means at least one Democratic senator must vote to support an override.

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