Pork is on sale. Not the sausage, chops, bacon or even the trotters and innards you’re familiar with. I’m talking about the kind of pork that politicians dole out to buy or reward support.
The state Republican leadership is trying to round up as much Democratic support as they can to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of their almost $24 billion budget. While the Republicans still hold majorities in the House and Senate, they don’t have the supermajorities they once had to override a veto. So they need seven Democrats in the House and one in the Senate.
Why not lure them with pork? You know ... the kind of entitlements Republicans used to abhor.
But these are different times so they are dangling the state’s Department of Health and Human Services headquarters and it’s approximately 2,300 state jobs as bait.
Initially, Republican leadership said the DHHS relocation outside Raleigh was to encourage rural economic development.
“We think it’s important for more rural areas to reap the benefits of state jobs,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has been quoted as saying.
Even the Republican budget supported moving DHHS to Granville County, which is north of Wake County and straddles the Virginia line. The DHHS move follows the relocation of the Division of Motor Vehicles to Rocky Mount.
This was all done before they realized they needed a shiny new thing to entice Democratic support. As a result, they are using the headquarters as a bauble and have mixed in a few other locations — including Guilford and Forsyth counties — as potential sites for the new DHHS home. I thought this was about rural locations.
Legislators from both Guilford and Forsyth counties, including Rep. Pricey Harrison, have acknowledged that these counties are being considered, but none have said if they are willing to trade their vote for a headquarters.
Is the DHHS location really up for grabs or is this a ploy to lure pork-hungry Democrats to GOP’s side, only to have the headquarters evaporate after the veto has been overridden? Who knows?
The Guilford County Democratic delegation, sans Rep. Cecil Brockman, is being courted and wooed. Republicans are betting that Brockman, who supported their initial budget, will remain in their corner, although he hasn’t said what he will do. Sen. Gladys Robinson, who initially supported the Senate version of the state budget, partly because it contained money for N.C. A&T — although she ultimately voted no on the final budget — also might be a target.
The major issue that Cooper and the Democrats have with the Republican budget is that again, it doesn’t include money to expand Medicaid, which is generally used to provide health care to the working poor. Expansion is thought to provide the state an additional $4 billion in federal money, create 40,000 jobs, support rural hospitals and aid in the fight against opioid addiction. As it stands now, the federal government will reimburse the state 90% of the costs.
Cooper has said Medicaid is a no-go for him and our local Democratic delegation stands with him. Brockman, who said on Facebook that he supported the budget because it provided twice the amount of money for projects in High Point including $1 million for the John Coltrane Music Festival and $50,000 to High Point Against Violence. Nothing against either of these, or the 16 other projects on his pork list, but what about health care, Rep. Brockman?
You represent a district where Medicaid expansion would provide relief to so many. Brockman has previously supported Medicaid expansion, but it seems this time, he sold his vote before they dangled the big kahuna.
It’s kind of ironic that DHHS, the agency that would manage Medicaid expansion, is the one on the auction block.
The Republicans have delayed scheduling a vote on the veto, probably because they don’t yet have enough votes or maybe because Berger and another Senate leader were in Berlin at a conference.
Who knows what else might be used as a lure.
Since they have so many issues with Cooper, I suggest they move the Governor’s Mansion to the rural fortress that is Fayetteville. Or since they seem so threatened by an educated electorate, move the UNC General Administration to Asheboro, on land owned by the zoo. And we all know how they feel about Attorney General Josh Stein, so banish him to Charlotte.
Just think, you’ll get these agencies out of your eyesight and get back your supermajority.
And then, you can ride home reciting this Mother Goose rhyme:
This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
This little piggy went ... wee, wee, wee, all the way home!