The Republican leadership in the state House chose Monday to again leave unaddressed the state budget veto override vote and a Medicaid expansion bill.
Instead, the veto override and House Bill 655, which would expand Medicaid, were carried over to today’s 2 p.m. session.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the budget compromise June 28. Republicans need at least seven Democratic House members and at least one Democratic senator to vote for a veto override.
The Senate Republican leadership introduced a bill Wednesday calling for a July 22 adjournment of the current session with an exception of a limited Aug. 27 session for unspecified reasons.
Compared with the informal — and often heated — back and forth on the veto override and on HB655, there was minimal acknowledgment of the two agenda items during Monday’s 45-minute floor session.
Gov. Cooper said in a letter to legislative leaders Wednesday that, “in recent days, it has become clear that you do not have the votes to override my veto of the budget. I don’t believe you are likely to secure those votes.”
House speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, told reporters after the July 8 session — the first session to skip a vote — that “we want everybody to have time to think about where they are on this vote. We’re going to wait until the time is right.”
“I’m open to discussing the best way to close the health-care coverage gap, but North Carolinians expect us to wrestle with the issue now, not ignore it,” Cooper wrote in his letter to Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and Moore.
Berger has accused Cooper of holding the state budget hostage to Medicaid expansion.
“We hope that the leaders and the governor can finally have a productive conversation about a budget compromise, free from the governor’s ultimatum that no budget can move forward without Medicaid expansion,” Berger’s office said.
“As we’ve said, we do not think a $24 billion budget should be held up over a single policy disagreement.”
Meanwhile, HB655 contains language that would not allow it to take effect until a budget bill is signed into law by Cooper.
When recess was called Monday, 12 amendments to HB655 proposed by Democrats were teed up for consideration.
Unlike federal budget fights that often lead to government shutdowns, the vast majority of state government — estimated at 90% — would operate on a status-quo basis via recurring funding at 2018-19 levels, according to the governor’s office.
That’s even though several Senate GOP leaders have issued statements through Berger’s office expressing the urgency of passing the budget for the sake of raises for state employees and public school teachers, and start-up funding for several new initiatives.
‘just isn’t there’
Easing some of the tension was Wednesday’s House approval of a stop-gap supplemental appropriations bill, House Bill 111, that permits funding for certain state projects that are dependent on federal money to go forward.
The Senate must approve HB111 before the funding is released.
Berger and Senate majority leader Harry Brown said Monday they planned to introduce an amendment to the budget compromise at 9:30 a.m. today. The amendment “would allow for federal funds to continue flowing into North Carolina during the state budget standoff.”
“I think legislative leaders would prefer to take some time away from Raleigh, rather than linger in town while the budget stalemate continues,” said Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst with Libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation.
“This break will give lawmakers time for vacations, catching up on their day jobs and raising money for their next election campaigns.”
Passing a clean budget without Medicaid expansion “would likely require a lot of external public pressure that just isn’t there right now,” said Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, an economics professor at Winston-Salem State University.
“The fact that North Carolina simply continues its previous budget when a new one is not in place means that there is less likelihood of such pressure than would be the case in a state where the government is not allowed to spend at all without a budget.”