RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Republicans in the General Assembly could hold votes on the state budget as soon as next week, House Speaker Tim Moore (R) said Tuesday as they await a counter-offer from Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on a potential compromise plan.
If no compromise is reached, Moore said Republicans are prepared to move forward with a vote on their own budget proposal and to see if enough Democrats will join with them to override a potential veto by Cooper.
Moore said Democratic and Republican legislative leaders met with Cooper Friday, nearly four months after the current fiscal year started.
“The conversations we had were very productive. Everybody was able to lay all the cards on the table,” Moore said.
While none of the parties involved in the talks have been willing to give specifics on the back-and-forth of the negotiations, Moore said, “We do not have the votes in our caucus to expand Medicaid.”
Medicaid expansion, which would provide health coverage to hundreds of thousands more lower-income people, has been a priority of Cooper’s for years. It was one of the key reasons the two sides never reached a budget agreement two years ago.
This time, Cooper also has proposed higher raises for teachers and state workers than what Republicans wanted.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have pitched tax cuts for individuals and businesses, which Cooper did not include in his initial budget proposal early this year.
The state is in the unprecedented situation of having a multibillion-dollar surplus in state funds and billions of dollars available from the federal government through recent stimulus programs initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moore said Republicans are waiting to hear from Cooper one more time with a potential compromise offer on the budget plan. That offer could come this week. At that point, Moore said Republicans are prepared to press forward either with that compromise or their own plan.
“We have billions and billions of dollars, some of which by the way, has a timer on it with an expiration date, that we need to get out there and we need to fund. And, we don’t need to let any one issue, Medicaid expansion, or anything else hold that up,” Moore said.
Ardis Watkins, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, recently said the drawn-out talks have made it more difficult for the state to attract new workers as agencies compete with businesses that have raised wages and offered other incentives.
“The longer this drags out, the more the expectation is that the raise will be significantly higher to correspond to the change in the market,” she said. “There’s no reason not to give significant raises because we’ve always been told we just don’t have the money. We do here. This is a question of the will.”
While Moore said he aims to have votes on the budget next week, the General Assembly also will be voting then on new electoral district maps that have been drawn through the redistricting process. That could delay a budget vote by another week, he said.