The General Assembly may finally end the months-long budget stalemate and override the governor’s veto of the budget.
The reconsideration of the budget veto was put on the Senate calendar for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28. The move prompts speculation Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, has enough votes for an override.
Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Berger, wouldn’t confirm whether Berger has the votes.
Republicans need only one Senate Democrat to vote to override for it to be successful. Four Senate Democrats voted for the budget the first time. All eyes are on Sens. Floyd McKissick Jr., D-Durham; Toby Fitch, D-Wilson; Ben Clark, D-Hoke; and Don Davis, D-Greene.
Senate Democrats claim they are “21 strong” and will vote to sustain the veto.
“Every member of the Senate has a choice to make: To be in the chamber and vote, or not,” Berger said in a news release.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the $24 billion budget June 28. The governor chided the Republican-led General Assembly for prioritizing tax cuts over investing in public education with higher teacher pay or a school construction bond. The primary crux of the governor’s objection was the General Assembly’s failure to include money for Medicaid expansion.
The veto set off a stalemate between Republican leadership and Cooper lasting for months. Cooper made it clear that without Medicaid expansion on the table, budget negotiations would fail. Republicans are largely dead set against expanding Medicaid, but they did offer to hold a special session to discuss health care.
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, also promised to hold a vote on House Bill 655, N.C. Healthcare for Working Families Act, if the veto override was successful. H.B. 655 is some Republican lawmakers’ answer to Medicaid expansion. Critics have called the bill Medicaid expansion-light, even though it includes work requirements for those seeking to be insured under the program.
For a time, Republicans seemed satisfied with passing mini-budgets in lieu of a full budget. The mini-budgets covered a range of budget provisions with bipartisan support. This included money for Raise the Age implementation and raises for State Highway Patrol officers.
But on the morning of Sept. 11, the House surprised many by successfully overriding the veto. Most House Democrats were absent from the chamber. Only nine were present to vote against overriding the veto. The vote was 55-9.
Later that day, House Democrat leader Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, claimed House Rules Committee Chair Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, told him Sept. 10 no votes would held at 8:30 a.m. Lewis is the House Rules Committee chairman and presided over the previous afternoon session.
House Republicans deny accusations they intentionally misled their colleagues. Lewis said Jackson may have misunderstood him when he told him there would be time for Democrats to caucus before votes on two mini-budgets.
Moore repeatedly said he would hold the vote on the veto override if the opportunity presented itself. The House speaker also said no vote sessions were always formally announced. No such notice was given for Sept. 11.
In any case, the House veto override further soured relationships between Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly.
Now, the Senate might take a shot at overriding the veto.
Berger said the Senate plans to adjourn no later than Oct. 31, regardless of whether they override the veto.