It's true! We still don’t have a budget!
There was some interesting grumbling and rumors a few weeks ago that led many of us to speculate that the Republican majority, led by Sen. Phil Berger might be softening their stance on Medicare expansion.
It is estimated that expanding Medicare in NC will cover as many as 500,000 low-income North Carolinians. But if allowing a half-million NC residents to access healthcare isn't enticement enough, the Biden administration is offering the State $1.7 billion dollars in new incentives and this has many legislators scratching their heads trying to figure out a politically practical way to take the federal government up on their offer.
That said, as of this week the Republican controlled majority is back to its recalcitrance and it seems that Medicaid Expansion conversations have ended. Speaker Tim Moore confirmed that the Republicans' latest proposal does not include Expansion.
The Senate is not taking any votes this week, as the budget negotiations between the legislative leadership and Gov. Cooper continue, although it appears less like the two sides can agree to a compromise package.
Gov. Cooper told a group of teachers on Monday that education funding is part of the hold up in the budget negotiations. Gov Cooper wants a 10% increase in teacher salaries over the next two years and concedes, that isn't enough. Coopers push for more education funding comes amidst the backdrop of a recent lawsuit filed by State Superior Court Judge, David Lee who contends that NC is in violation of a 1994 case brought before the Supreme Court, Leadnro I.
In 1997 the Supreme Court held that the state constitution guarantees every North Carolina child the right to a “sound basic education." then in 2004, in a decision known as Leandro II, the Supreme Court ruled that the the state's efforts to provide that education to poor children were inadequate. The court did not prescribe specific solutions; that was left up to legislators and education leaders.
However, in the years since the Leandro II decision, the State has been subject to two hearings a year to press the state on compliance with little to no success.
Now, Judge Lee believes the court must intervene and force legislators to increase school funding. Judge Lee believes he can compel the General Assembly to fund a plan that calls for $1.7 billion in new school funding over the next two years.
A constitutional showdown is looming between the courts and the legislature. The leaders of the General Assembly say that Lee has no authority to make them provide the money.
At this point, the State is back to having the three branches of government at odds with each other and it now seems the Republican legislature will simply pass their budget and work to secure enough Democratic votes to override the probable gubernatorial veto. It is likely that the Chamber doesn’t have enough votes to override the veto and so are preparing a series of “mini-budgets”. This means the State will operate the way it has for the last few years, no formal budget and with small spending bills.