North Carolina has entered the fifth month of the new fiscal year which began on July 1 and does not have a state budget.

The 2021 state budget is a case of deja vu all over again in Raleigh with the budget being held up over Medicaid expansion. 

One difference between 2021 and 2019 when the state failed to enact a budget is that in 2019 the Republican led legislature passed a budget which was then vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.  The negotiations between the legislative leaders and Cooper, did not go well in large part because Cooper insisted that Medicaid expansion be included in the budget and the legislature refused to include it.

In 2019 the state House overrode the veto but the state Senate did not.

In 2021 the legislative leaders decided to try something different.  After the state House and Senate had agreed on the budget, but before the budget was passed and sent to Cooper, state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and President Pro Tem of the Senate Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) have attempted to negotiate a budget with Cooper.  If an agreement can be reached, then Moore and Berger plan to go back to the legislature and try to get it passed.  Once again the big stumbling block is Medicaid expansion.

Berger has said he had the votes to pass Medicaid expansion in the Senate, but there were not the votes to pass Medicaid expansion in the House.

Berger said that because they couldn’t get Medicaid expansion through the House that it wasn’t on the table in the negotiations between Cooper and the Republican leadership.

The last time the state enacted a budget was in 2017.  Cooper also vetoed that budget but Republicans in the legislature had the votes to override the veto.

Since Cooper took office there has not been a budget that Cooper has not vetoed.

What may make 2021 different is that there is some movement among Democratic legislators to pass a budget over Cooper’s veto assuming that the negotiations fail and Cooper does veto the budget.  Republicans need two Democratic votes in the Senate and three in the House to override Cooper’s veto.

With spending still based largely on the 2017 budget the state has built a surplus of about $6 billion and many projects that were not included in one of the “mini-budget bills” passed in 2019 remain unfunded.