While the tax refund bill is working its way through the North Carolina legislature with approval as much a sure thing as anything in politics can be, the Republican-controlled legislature has begun a workaround for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto.

Cooper vetoed the budget that was passed with bipartisan votes in the House and Senate back in June, which means since July 1 the state government has been operating without a budget. But because of provisions made years ago, there is no danger of a government shutdown. The state continues to operate at the allocation levels in the old budget until a new budget is passed.

Both sides agree that there are no serious budget negotiations taking place. The Republicans are trying to come up with enough votes in the House to override the veto. (They have the votes in the Senate.) And Cooper is standing firm that he won’t sign any budget that doesn’t include Medicaid expansion.

But the budget doesn’t have to pass as one bill, and the Republican legislature started the process of passing the budget piecemeal, daring Cooper to veto the pieces.

On Monday, Aug. 26, the state Senate, by a unanimous vote, passed 5 percent pay increases, bonuses and other benefits for correctional officers. Both the Republican budget and Cooper’s proposed budget included 5 percent raises for correctional officers.

The Republican budget also included sizable raises for teachers; you can expect that to be in a separate bill also. Would Cooper actually veto raises for teachers who are some of the Democrats most loyal supporters?

If the allocations for higher education, including millions for NC A&T State University and UNCG, appears in a separate bill, is Cooper actually going to veto that bill because it doesn’t also include Medicaid expansion?

Passing the budget one piece at a time will be a slower process, but the end result will be the same. Even if Cooper does veto the bill that provides raises for corrections officers, judging from the vote in the state Senate that would not be a difficult veto to override.

It appears the Democrats in the state Senate are sending Cooper a message by voting in favor of the raises for correctional department employees. Cooper may not be concerned about getting reelected, but a lot of state senators and representatives are.

It looks like the Republicans have a viable plan to get their budget passed, and it’s hard to see how Cooper can do much to stop it.