Last week, leading Republican state legislators — and one Democrat — took a tour of N.C. A&T.
It’s one of several institutions of higher learning, including UNCG, UNC-Charlotte, East Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University, that legislators have visited to remind school officials — and the broader public — of the multi-million-dollar investments that will likely be made in those schools once the current budget impasse is settled.
But the real point of the visits came afterward, when Senate leader Phil Berger said in a news release, “It’s not right that funding for N.C. A&T and other state Universities is at risk because the Governor is willing to block an entire budget over one policy disagreement.”
Of course, Berger didn’t mention the Republicans’ role in that “one policy disagreement,” nor that the policy in question is Medicaid expansion. He didn’t mention that Republicans have been working overtime to undermine the governor’s veto of their budget, which lacks Medicaid expansion. And, of course, he didn’t mention the life-giving health care coverage that such a program would bring to an estimated 600,000 North Carolinians.
Berger could resolve this standoff just as easily as Cooper — and North Carolina would benefit if he did.
To review: Cooper vetoed the legislature’s budget proposal in June, saying it skimped on raises for teachers and it lacked Medicaid expansion, for which many in the state have been pushing for years. With increased Democratic numbers in the state House, his veto had teeth. Cooper countered with a proposal that gives teachers bigger raises, cuts another in a long line of corporate tax breaks and expands Medicaid coverage.
But the Republicans, led by Berger, don’t want Medicaid expansion ... never, no how, no sir, no matter what.
But they still don’t have the votes to override Cooper’s veto.
In July, Republicans began dangling pretty gewgaws in front of Democrats — the possible relocation of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Greensboro (and elsewhere), $7.7 million for a new Guilford County Mental Health Crisis Center, $3 million for a pilot program for career and technical education ... and more.
But so far, only one Democrat, Rep. Cecil Brockman of High Point, who joined last week’s tour, has seemed willing to concede on Medicaid expansion.
So now they’re trying this new tact, noting that they could spread such generosity if the mean ol’ governor would just stop being so unreasonable!
The fact is, this isn’t an either/or proposition: It’s and. But Republicans have shown little appetite for a compromise.
The educators to whom they tried to appeal most likely know what’s up, too. Our universities do stand to benefit from the budget once it’s passed, and the updates, improvements and additions have been a long time coming. But many educators are among the prominent business leaders, religious leaders and health experts who tout the benefits Medicaid expansion would bring to the state. It would create jobs and save lives. Thirty-seven states, including red ones, have signed up for Medicaid expansion and none have expressed regret.
So what’s next? Will Berger and Moore stalk General Assembly floors, hoping to sneak through a veto override while enough Democrats are in the bathroom?
Enough with the obstruction. Take the override vote, lose it, mark it down as a victory of principle and move on — or put it aside and sit with the governor to work out a compromise.
Berger should stop playing these games. Or take responsibility for the consequences.