The stalemate on the Republican state budget compromise and Medicaid managed care startup funding will carry into 2020.
The Senate adjournment bill approved Thursday by both chambers brings the legislature back into regular session at noon Nov. 13. That session would be limited to congressional and state redistricting bills.
When that session adjourns, the next session would begin at noon Jan. 14 when vetoed bills could be considered, as well as bills potentially addressing N.C. Transportation Department funding needs, and access to healthcare legislation.
Prior to the adjournment vote, the Senate Republican leadership withdrew the GOP budget compromise House Bill 966 and Medicaid managed care House Bill 555 from the floor agenda and sent them to the Rules and Operations committee. The $218 million in Medicaid startup funding is included in both bills. HB555 is one of the mini-budget bills that Republican legislative leaders used to free up funding from the budget stalemate.
With those actions, Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, was able to achieve his goal of a temporary adjournment Thursday.
Berger released a statement saying that through the mini-budget process, the legislature “passed funding that totals 98.5% of the original $24 billion (budget) it passed in June.”
“I’d like to commend the Senate for a largely bipartisan consensus on some of the major issues this session, including nearly all of the ‘mini budgets,’ the Combat Absentee Ballot Fraud Act and criminal justice reform.
“With nearly all state priorities fully funded, the Senate session has concluded,” he said.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed House Bill 966 on June 28. The stalemate reached Day 125 Thursday.
Republicans hold a 29-21 majority in the Senate, which means they need at least one Senate Democrat to support overriding Cooper’s vetoes of House Bill 966 and House Bill 555.
While senators from both parties expressed relief with the adjournment decision, several House Democrats decried the continued inaction on Medicaid expansion legislation. The adjournment vote went 60-28.
Cooper’s state budget veto came in part because the Republican compromise does not contain legislation to support expanding Medicaid to between 450,000 and 650,000 North Carolinians.
“There’s real money being actively wasted by letting this clock keep ticking away,” Jackson said, referring to the 90% federal match for Medicaid expansion’s additional administrative costs.
“Sen. Berger always said he would take a vote on overriding vetoes if he had the votes,” said Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst with Libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation.
“It became increasingly clear in recent days that Senate Democrats were not going to vote for any veto override, even if they supported the legislation.
“Whether they feared political reprisal or opposed Republicans’ strategy of bypassing negotiations with Gov. Cooper, Senate Democrats stuck with their motto of #21strong, meaning all 21 of them planned to stick together against their GOP colleagues,” Kokai said.
Rick Glazier, executive director of the N.C. Justice Center and a former Democratic legislator, took Republican leadership to task for “again voting to slash taxes for big corporations while failing to give teachers and state employees the raises they deserve, leaving hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without Medicaid coverage and failing to invest in thriving communities across the state.”
Setting the stage for further delaying veto override votes: both chambers approving Thursday a concurrence compromise on a mini-budget bill that raises public school employees’ pay.
Senate Bill 354 serves as a mini-budget bill that would raise public school employees’ pay by an average 3.9%, retroactive to July 1.
The Senate was the first to take up the compromise, voting along party lines 28-20. The House followed with a 62-46 vote, also along party lines.
SB354 goes to Cooper, who has said the GOP budget does not contain a large enough pay increase for public school teachers — he has proposed an 8.6% raise. He could not be immediately reached for comment on the passage of SB354.
On Wednesday, Senate Republican leaders pledged to give public school employees a 4.4% pay supplement increase on top of the 3.9% pay raise.
The catch: The supplement hike only goes into effect if Senate Republicans gain the necessary Democratic vote to override Cooper’s budget veto.
Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said after Senate passage of SB354 that “nobody believes the governor’s cheap rhetoric about teacher pay anymore.”
“He has yet another opportunity to sign or veto a teacher raise. If he signs it, Republicans will have delivered the sixth and seventh consecutive teacher pay increases. If he vetoes it, teachers will be the only ones in the state who get nothing.
“It’s time for him decide what he’s for and what he’s against,” Brown said.
The N.C. Association of Educators responded to the pay supplemental offer Wednesday by calling it “wildly insulting to educators of every level.”
“We stood with the governor on his veto of the budget because it failed North Carolina educators on every level, and we stand with the governor now in mutual disgust over this bill,” said Mark Jewell, the association’s president.
Jewell said that “even with these proposed increases, education support professionals would still be getting less than other state employees have already received, and our retirees are ignored entirely.”
The decision to delay a budget veto override vote to Thursday drew the ire of Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Durham.
Berger said Oct. 25 that “there should be no question that should the budget override vote come up, that every member of the Senate has been told publicly that they have a choice to make: To be here and vote, or not.”
House Republican leaders waited 76 days to conduct their veto override vote in controversial manner Sept. 11. Most Democratic members were not on the floor because they said they had been told by Republican House leadership that no votes would be taken during the first session that day.
Jackson urged loudly and repeatedly near the end of Wednesday’s session “to call the vote.”
“All 50 members are here. The (veto override) vote has been on the calendar three days. The delays are not because people are absent, but because they are present.
“Don’t you see this is an integrity issue?”
Cooper has signed all but one of the mini-budget bills, the lone veto being for House Bill 555, which contained $218 million in start-up funding from the proposed state budget for the Medicaid managed-care transformation initiative now set for a Feb. 1 statewide start.