The Republicans who run North Carolina’s legislature are thwarting more than just Gov. Roy Cooper and his fellow Democrats as they continue to dig in their heels and refuse to pass a budget that includes Medicaid expansion and competitive pay for public school teachers.
They are also going against the wishes of the most of state’s people, many Republicans as well as Democrats.
Through the summer and fall, and now in a new poll from WRAL News in Raleigh, a majority of North Carolinians have repeatedly supported Cooper’s positions on these issues.
The state has been without a budget for nearly nine months over these disagreements.
Cooper insists the state should take advantage of the expansion of Medicaid available under the Affordable Care Act, an expansion that could provide affordable health care coverage for as many as 670,000 more people. That could mean people would go for regular health care, possibly preventing more serious conditions, and not depending on costly emergency room services.
Under the ACA, the federal government is supposed to pay the full cost of the expansion for the first three years and 90% after that.
But Phil Berger keeps saying no.
The Senate leader — and the state’s most powerful Republican — throws around words such as “socialized medicine” and dire predictions that the federal government won’t keep its promises.
In mid-February, WRAL found that 57% of people polled agree with Cooper that North Carolina should expand Medicaid — as 37 other states already have. That percentage is down from some polls last summer, mostly because of those GOP scare tactics. But it still shows strong popular support.
Cooper also believes that North Carolina must continue to work to improve pay and conditions for teachers. The quality of education for children depends upon that support, he argues, and he’s right.
But when they passed their budget last summer, Republicans decided that it was more important to give businesses another tax cut than to giv‑e schools and teachers more money.
After Cooper vetoed that budget, they came up with a “mini budget” in November offering an average 3.9% raise for teachers over two years, but Cooper did some heel-digging himself with another veto.
He favors teacher raises more in the range of 9%.
Republicans argued that teachers have gotten several raises in recent years and that teacher’s salaries in the state now rank about 29th in the nation rather than the dismal 47th ranking five years earlier.
Cooper and others say we still have a long way to go. North Carolina loses good teachers not so much to other states as to other professions that pay a lot more for professionals with their level of education.
Most people in the state seem to agree that it’s more important to increase money for public schools than to cut taxes further. WRAL found that nearly three-quarters of those polled — across party lines — support more money for schools rather than further tax cuts.
So why are Republicans so determined to have the state limp along without a budget as they keep trying to get enough votes to override Cooper’s veto?
It’s not as if they are fighting for something vitally important with broad public support. Quite the contrary.
The people of North Carolina know that affordable health care and good education are important for the state’s future. Too bad Berger doesn’t listen to them.
Maybe the voters will say no to him in November.