North Carolina is now well into its second month without a state budget.
The new fiscal year began on July 1, and it doesn’t appear that the folks in Raleigh are getting any closer to passing a budget. Fortunately, in North Carolina the spending continues at the levels set in the old budget, so there is no danger of a government shutdown like on the federal level.
The General Assembly passed the budget with bipartisan votes in both the House and the Senate, and on June 28, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed that budget. Since then, other than a war of press releases and speeches, not much has happened.
The Republicans in the legislature don’t have enough votes to override Cooper’s veto without the support of some Democrats, and so far they haven’t been able to line up enough Democratic votes to get the 60 percent needed.
Both sides agree that there are no negotiations underway to develop a compromise budget that could pass the legislature and be signed by Cooper.
Cooper says the Republican leadership in the legislature won’t negotiate. The Republican leadership says that there is nothing to negotiate because Cooper has said he won’t sign any budget that does not include Medicaid expansion and the Republican majority in the legislature doesn’t support Medicaid expansion.
So it’s a waiting game. In the House the Republicans need the support of eight Democrats to override Cooper’s veto. Depending on who you ask, the Republicans are three or four votes short. But there is an interesting twist to the vote totals, which is one reason the budget is on the House agenda every day. To override a veto, 60 percent of those present and voting have to vote in favor of the override. It means the Democrats can’t afford to have many absences because if House Speaker Tim Moore gets the word that enough Democrats aren’t present for the House to override the veto with the votes it has, the budget is sitting right there on the agenda waiting.
So the Democrats need to have near perfect attendance records while the Republicans can take time off if they want.
It appears that the Republican leadership believes time is on its side in this battle, because as long as the state doesn’t have a budget, the salary increases that state employees were to receive won’t go into effect. Also, the special appropriations such as the $1 million for tornado relief for Greensboro and the $7.7 million for a new Guilford County mental health building won’t be made as long as the state is operating without a 2019-2021 budget.
But for now, it’s just a waiting game in Raleigh.