RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is “strongly considering” the state budget as the public awaits the details of what Republican legislative leaders have decided to include in it.
Jordan Monaghan, a spokesperson for the governor, said Cooper is still not aware of what’s in the budget, but he raised the prospect of vetoing it ahead of possible votes on the two-year spending package this week.
“The Governor has vetoed bad budgets before and will again if needed. Republican legislative leadership has negotiated in secret for months, and the public, the Governor and even rank-and-file legislators don’t know what’s in it,” Monaghan said in a statement. “The Governor is strongly considering a veto and after reviewing the bill he will do so if he believes it’s in the best interest of North Carolinians to try and negotiate a better budget. As the legislators continue to miss deadlines, it will be very difficult to start Medicaid expansion in 2023 even if they pass a budget this month.”
Republican legislative leaders have said they think it’s likely a final agreement on the budget will be announced this week and votes would soon follow. Once the legislature passes a budget, Cooper has 10 days to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.
State Health and Human Services Sec. Kody Kinsley said recently that due to the delay in enacting a state budget, the earliest that expanded Medicaid coverage would take effect would be Dec. 1. While Republicans authorized Medicaid expansion earlier this year, they made it contingent on the budget being enacted.
Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the legislature, have been meeting privately for months to try to reach an agreement on various issues tied to the budget. They’d already resolved some of the highest-profile issues, such as personal income tax cuts and how high the raises should be for state workers and teachers. They have not revealed those amounts.
Going into this weekend, they were still discussing expanded gaming options and how much funding to put toward NCInnovation, a program that provides funding for start-up companies that stem from research conducted at the state’s public universities.
Sources say the House agreed to $500 million for NCInnovation, spread across two years. The Senate initially proposed $1.4 billion.
An email obtained by CBS 17 last week shows that as far as gaming is concerned, there are not enough House Republicans willing to support including that in the budget. Republicans have been discussing legalizing four more casinos and video lottery terminals statewide.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) wrote in the email that House Republicans would meet this week for a briefing on the budget that does not include gaming in it. He noted for the gaming plan to move forward in the budget, it would need 61 of the 72 House Republicans to support it.
Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) has been pushing to include the gaming plan in the budget and not take it up as a standalone bill. He told CBS 17 last week he does not see a path to move forward on gaming if the proposal is not in the budget.
Cooper has raised concerns about Republicans using gaming revenue to offset further income tax cuts. He’s also criticized a proposal to significantly expand the state’s school voucher program to make every family eligible regardless of income.
“There are a lot of things that will be in that budget that the governor would be very happy to see happen, one of which would be Medicaid expansion, which does not happen if we don’t get this over the finish line,” said Sen. Berger. “There will be things in the budget that he’s not gonna be so happy with just like there will be things in the budget that I’m probably not so happy with and other members won’t be so happy with. I think on balance it is something that I would expect him to sign, but clearly, that is his decision.”