Politics & Government

Roy Cooper will veto GOP-backed state budget. Will lawmakers override him?

The state spending plan proposed by Republicans in the legislature won’t get the governor’s stamp of approval.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday morning announced he will veto the budget plan approved by Republicans in North Carolina General Assembly. The move comes a day after the GOP-controlled House and Senate sent him a compromise their members had reached with each other.

Cooper made the announcement during a press conference at the Governor’s Mansion. Health care advocates and teachers stood on stairs behind him as he outlined his problems with the GOP budget.

“It values corporate tax breaks over classrooms, gimmicks over guaranteed school construction and political ideology over people,” Cooper said.

Ricky Clay, an industrial electrician from Halifax County, attended Cooper’s announcement to tell his story. Clay is a contract worker who said Medicaid expansion would provide him with the consistent coverage he needs.

“My health is depleting. I’ve got to have another surgery, and it’s getting harder and harder. I can’t even hardly make ends meet, much less pay for my health care,” Clay said.

Cooper has vetoed the Republican budget each year since entering office in 2017. But this is the first year that Republicans won’t have enough votes to override his veto on their own, after Democrats won more seats in the House and Senate.

“The people have spoken,” Cooper said Friday. “They want more balance in state government.”

If Cooper and Republican legislators can’t reach a compromise, state law allows state government spending to continue at current levels, so there won’t be a government shutdown.

Among other things, the $24 billion Republican plan aimed to give most state employees a 5 percent raise over the next two years, boost public education by $1.43 billion and increase the standard tax deduction for married couples from $20,000 to $21,000.

An hour after Cooper’s announcement, NC Senate leader Phil Berger held a press conference at the legislature. The two news conferences featured the latest accusations from Democrats and Republicans that the other side has been negotiating in bad faith.

Berger said he struggles to take Cooper’s negotiation offers seriously. He passed out a worksheet that listed key priorities — state employee raises, public education, the rainy day fund — and a blank space next to them where Cooper’s team failed to write their offer.

“I personally handed to the Governor the legislature’s opening positions on the items he described as major priorities,” Berger said in a news release Friday. “I asked for a counter-offer, and the Governor never provided one.”

Cooper said Friday it’s been a “negotiating sham.” He said he is vetoing the budget for more reasons than just lack of Medicaid expansion — a claim Berger rejected.

“This is and has always been about Medicaid expansion,” Berger said, referring to the idea as an “oversold solution” that could cost the state if the federal government ever ceases to fund 90 percent of the cost.

“The Governor is blocking funds for teacher and state employee raises, the rape kit backlog, the Human Trafficking Commission, and other crucial investments so he can can brag to his far-left base that he vetoed the budget over Medicaid expansion,” he said.

Cooper said he’d offer a counter-proposal to the GOP budget the week after July Fourth.

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

Paul “Andy” Specht reports on North Carolina leaders and state politics for The News & Observer and PolitiFact. Specht previously covered Raleigh City Hall and town governments around the Triangle. He’s a Raleigh native who graduated from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. Contact him at aspecht@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4870.
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