Berger, NC Senate Republicans looking for Democrat to override budget veto

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina lawmakers return to Raleigh Tuesday, but a brief legislative session may not bring an end to the months-long impasse over the state budget.

In an interview, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said he’s still trying to convince one of the Democrats in the Senate to vote with his party in overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget.

Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the budget in June for a variety of reasons. Among them, he criticized the spending plan for not including Medicaid expansion and not giving raises to teachers that he felt were high enough.

“It’s a budget that’s good for North Carolina. It’s good for our ability to continue the kind of economic growth we’ve seen,” Berger said.

As long as all 29 Senate Republicans show up and vote for the override, it would only take one Democrat to vote with them to complete the override.

The Republican-controlled House already voted to override Cooper’s veto in September.

Since then, no Senate Democrats have been willing to break with the governor.

Republicans backed a revised teacher pay plan this fall that would have given teachers an average 3.9 percent raise over two years. Cooper vetoed that as well, calling it “paltry.”

“I don’t see any need for us to call the veto override of the budget up unless we’ve actually got the votes to successfully override,” Berger said. “Well, we’re in conversations, and we are at this point hopeful that we’ll find one of the Democrats who’s willing to be consistent as far as their vote is concerned.”

Berger referred to the four Senate Democrats who previously voted for the budget to pass before Cooper vetoed it.

Those include Sens. Ben Clark, Don Davis and Toby Fitch.

Sen. Floyd McKissick (D) also voted for the budget when it first passed.

He resigned his seat last week to join the NC Utilities Commission.

Cooper is expected to appoint former Rep. Mickey Michaux to finish his term.

None of those senators were willing to support the override when Republicans put it on the calendar in October. As of Monday, none of them has indicated any change in their position.

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) said he expects the caucus to remain united.

“As long as the Senate Democrats hold 21 strong, that puts in a much better position to try to use that as leverage to negotiate higher teacher pay raises,” he said. “It’s important for them to get the respect that they deserve in their profession, and with that respect for the profession comes higher teacher pay.”

Berger said the session could start and end on Tuesday, with a low probability of continuing into Wednesday.

Wake County teacher Kim Mackey was among the thousands of teachers who march in Raleigh the last two years demanding higher pay for school employees as well as an

“I’ve seen a lot of really good teachers leave because it’s just not financially feasible for them to stay, and they don’t feel that value,” said Mackey. “I think what has to happen is a sincere, bipartisan budget. That’s what the voters went to the polls, and that’s the message they sent in 2018.”

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