As N.C. legislators prepare to consider overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of their 2019-21 budget deal, Republican senators are drawing attention to funding priorities threatened by the veto.
News releases issued Monday, July 8, from Senate leader Phil Berger’s office cited the veto’s potential impact on funding for hurricane relief, the state’s rape kit backlog, and the raise-the-age criminal justice reform.
Without a veto override, “$94.1 million earmarked for disaster recovery would disappear,” according to one release.
“This funding is vital to ensure these communities that were hit by Hurricane Florence last year have the tools they need to rebuild,” said Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, in the news release. “The General Assembly and Gov. Cooper worked well together last year in our storm recovery efforts, and it’s unfortunate that the governor is not willing to put politics aside and do the same thing here.”
A separate news release suggests “important justice and public safety priorities in the budget will not be funded” without a veto override. Among them: $6 million set aside to clear a backlog in state testing of rape kits from across North Carolina.
“Roy Cooper already let down the people of North Carolina once when he failed to clear the massive rape kit backlog during his time as attorney general, and now his veto threatens to continue denying justice to rape victims while allowing violent criminals to remain loose, free to strike again,” said Sens. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, and Danny Britt, R-Robeson, in the news release.
The release also highlights a potential negative impact for the raise-the-age initiative. “In 2017, the General Assembly passed legislation to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction for nonviolent crimes from 16 to 18, and that legislation is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1,” according to the release. “This change will require more resources that the state is responsible for funding, including courtrooms, judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers. That is why the budget passed by the General Assembly includes $70 million over the next two years to ensure a smooth transition.”
These aren’t the first releases from Berger’s office tying the Cooper budget veto to potential negative impacts on state spending priorities. Other news releases have blamed Cooper for threatening new state spending on pay raises for teachers and other state employees, K-12 construction projects, home health care services for disabled N.C. residents, and transition of the state Medicaid program to managed care.
The vetoed budget plan, House Bill 966, sits now in the House. If every member is present for a vote, Republicans would need support from seven Democrats to secure the three-fifths majority required to override a veto. The bill would then head to the Senate for its own veto override vote.
Legislators have voted to override 23 of Cooper’s record-setting 29 vetoes since he took office in 2017. But the House failed to secure enough votes to override the only other veto Cooper has issued this year. That veto struck down Senate Bill 359, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.