RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) – North Carolina legislators and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper are trying to bring renewed energy toward resolving a three-month budget stalemate to their respective likings.
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said on Tuesday his chamber will adjourn for the year by Oct. 31, with or without an enacted budget. He said he’d prefer working out a compromise with Senate Democrats to end the impasse.
Cooper vetoed the state budget in June. House GOP members overrode his veto last month during an unexpected vote, but the override motion now sits in the Senate. Cooper said earlier Tuesday he believes all 21 Senate Democrats would uphold his veto.
Cooper vetoed the budget largely because it lacked Medicaid expansion. Democratic legislators spent Tuesday holding a hearing to try to build momentum for expansion.
Robin Jordan told lawmakers about her daughter, Jessica, who lacked health insurance for most of her adult life. She said she struggled to help Jessica get access to long-term treatment after she attempted suicide at 19. Robin said her daughter eventually developed an addiction to opioids and died of an overdose last May.
“It’s hell. I mean, I’m a nurse. I deal with this every day. And, to know about community resources that I talk to my clients about but I can’t help my own child with, it’s beyond frustrating,” she said. “And to watch her health spiral downhill over a 10-year period because she can’t get any help is devastating to watch.”
Cooper has advocated for expanding Medicaid to cover an additional half a million people in North Carolina. Across the country, 36 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Berger said he doesn’t believe passing a state budget should be contingent on expanding Medicaid. He’s proposed holding a special session, potentially early next year, focused on health care access.
“We feel that there are fiscal problems with that approach and that it creates some real uncertainty with budgets down the road,” Berger said. “We are trying to find a pathway to address what I think everyone acknowledges is a need out there.”
Cooper spokesman Ford Porter wrote in an email, “The only threat we see is the Republican leadership’s threat to our democracy. What we heard today was more empty excuses for the refusal to give teachers a meaningful raise or close the health coverage gap for 500,000 North Carolinians. The Governor has offered a reasonable compromise and North Carolinians deserve better than Republican obstruction and excuses.”
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