Last week, leading Republican state legislators — and one Democrat — took a tour of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. It’s one of several institutes of higher learning, including UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte, East Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University, that legislators have swung by to remind officials of the multi-million-dollar investments that will likely be made in their schools after the current budget impasse is settled.
But the real point of the visits came afterward, when Senate leader Phil Berger said in a news release, “It’s not right that funding for NC A&T and other state Universities is at risk because the Governor is willing to block an entire budget over one policy disagreement.”
Of course, he didn’t mention the Republicans’ role in the “one policy disagreement,” nor that the policy at hand is Medicaid expansion. He didn’t mention that Republicans have been working overtime to undermine the governor’s veto of their budget, which lacks Medicaid expansion. And, of course, he didn’t mention the life-giving health care coverage that Medicaid expansion would bring to an estimated 600,000 North Carolinians.
Berger could remove this block just as easily as Cooper — and North Carolina would benefit if he did.
Let’s review: Cooper vetoed the legislature’s budget proposal in June, saying it skimped on raises for teachers and it lacked Medicaid expansion, for which many in the state have been pushing for years. With increased Democratic numbers in the state House, his veto had teeth. Cooper countered with a proposal that gives teachers bigger raises, cuts another in a long line of corporate tax breaks and expands Medicaid coverage.
But the Republicans, led by Berger, are entrenched. No Medicaid expansion ... never, no how, no sir, no matter what.
But they still don’t have the votes to override Cooper’s veto.
In July, Republicans began dangling pretty gewgaws in front of Democrats — the possible relocation of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services headquarters here, $42.2 million to renovate the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem there — in an effort to peal off a few votes and break the logjam.
But so far, only one Democrat, Rep. Cecil Brockman of High Point, has given in.
So now they’re trying this new tactic, acting as if they could be so generous if the mean ol’ governor would just stop being so unreasonable!
But that works both ways. And let’s face it: Republicans have not exactly established a reputation for compromise in the last decade or so.
The educators to whom they tried to appeal most likely know what’s up, too. Our universities do stand to benefit from the budget once it’s passed, and the updates, improvements and additions have been a long time coming. But many educators are among the prominent business leaders, religious leaders and health experts who tout the benefits Medicaid expansion would bring to the state. It would create jobs and save lives — including among university students and their families.
Thirty-seven states, including many of the red variety, have signed up for Medicaid expansion and none of them express regret.
So what’s next? Will Berger and Moore stalk congressional floors, hoping to sneak through a veto override while enough Democrats are in the bathroom?
Enough obstruction. Take the override vote, lose it, mark it down as a victory of principle and move on — or put it aside and sit down with the governor to work out a compromise. Berger should stop playing games and do the necessary work of legislation. Or take responsibility for the consequences.