Well, that was a big waste of time and money — taxpayer money.
The state Senate met on Tuesday, apparently to spin its wheels some more. Three items were on the agenda, all attempted overrides of Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes — on public school teacher pay, environmental regulatory changes and the budget. Though Senate Republicans hold a 29-21 advantage, they needed at least one Senate Democrat to achieve the three-fifths majority required to override any given veto.
On the first two items, all 21 Senate Democrats stood firm to sustain the governor’s vetoes. So the GOP leadership didn’t even attempt a vote on the budget. They put if off until, likely, April.
And why should they have voted? A full Senate means they lose.
As Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson tweeted following the session, “This is the sixth month of delaying the budget vote not because people are absent but because too many people are present.”
No doubt some Republican legislators will consider this a victory — they didn’t budge — but it’s actually an embarrassment. It’s an example of the kind of political gridlock that angers the public and makes a state look bad.
Medicaid expansion is the main issue that keeps the budget from being finalized, with, once again, the governor and Senate Democrats seeking to establish it and Republicans standing firmly against it — even a compromised version proposed by Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, that would have included work requirements.
Last week, Kansas became the 38th state — and the 15th red state — to expand its Medicaid program. Expansion in North Carolina would add between 450,000 and 650,000 residents who currently have no coverage to the 2.2 million currently covered. It would create jobs and save lives. No state that has adopted Medicaid expansion has expressed regret.
Berger still clings to his flimsy claim that he fears the federal government might not do its part. But that’s ludicrous. After so many other states have benefited from Medicaid expansion, Berger really owes the public a better reason. Actually, he owes it to the state to stand down.
Democrats want teachers’ salaries to rise by an average of 8.5% to 9.1%, but were willing to negotiate down to 6.5%.
The Republicans, however, stand firm on a 3.9% increase with an extra 4.4% in supplementary pay — but that extra is contingent on Democrats abandoning Medicaid expansion. It’s an offer that the N.C. Association of Educators has called “wildly insulting to educators of every level.”
State GOP legislators have been trying to portray themselves as education champions for a while now. But any legislature that provides the kind of corporate tax cuts that have become a Republican staple can afford more for our teachers. And they should do so without holding possible Medicaid recipients hostage.
It’s embarrassing for our state legislature to be tied up like this, but Republicans haven’t yet adjusted to the loss of their veto-proof majority. Rather than work with their new Democratic colleagues, they’ve being playing games.
Never mind the notion of running government like a business; they can’t even run government like a government. Their underhanded tactics and failure to compromise ultimately cheats the voters, whom we hope take notice and respond accordingly in November.
Government can work well despite political divisions — we’ve seen it before. It should be the norm, not the exception. But until Republicans accept reality, they’ll be holding the whole state hostage.