The Republican legislative leaders and Democratic governor have come up with a new year strategy in an attempt to pass a budget this year.
Speaker Pro Tem of the Senate Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Gov. Roy Cooper are trying something new this year in an attempt to get past a looming budget stalemate.
Traditionally, the state legislature passes a two-year budget in odd years and sends it to the governor for his signature. In even years the legislature makes adjustments to that budget and sends that to the governor for his signature.
In 2019 the leaders in Raleigh followed that tradition and the result was no budget was ever passed and signed by the governor, which means the state is still operating under the base budget passed in 2017, plus a number of mini-budget bills on specific items that were passed by the legislature and signed by Cooper.
Unlike the federal government, which technically “shuts down” if a budget deal is not reached, in North Carolina, until a new budget becomes law the state operates under the old budget. So for the past four years the state has been operating under the 2017 budget, which is one of the reasons that the state has a huge surplus.
In 2019 Cooper vetoed the budget passed by the legislature. The House was able to override the veto but the Senate was not. Nor were the legislative leaders and Cooper ever able to reach agreement on a budget they could all support.
The state’s fiscal year began on July 1, so the state is now three months into the new fiscal year and the legislature has not passed a budget.
But there is some method to this madness. The strategy being pursued by Berger, Moore and Cooper is to negotiate the budget deal before the legislature passes the budget. Reportedly, Berger and Moore have reached an agreement on a budget bill that will pass in both the House and the Senate, but instead of passing that budget and sending it to Cooper, where it would most likely be vetoed, the attempt by all three is to reach an agreement on a budget Cooper will sign and then attempt to get that budget through the legislature.
What the state leadership tried in 2019 and 2020 didn’t work and whether this new strategy will work or not is still to be seen.