The state knows it has to move the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters off of the Dorothea Dix campus in Raleigh, but what remains unknown is where it’ll be located after the relocation has seemingly become a pawn in the budget negotiations.
The budget sent to Gov. Roy Cooper in late June included a provision that originally appeared in the Senate’s budget proposal that would move the DHHS headquarters to Granville County. Since then, Cooper and legislative Democrats claim the relocation has become a bargaining chip to try and get votes to override Cooper’s veto.
“It’s hard to know how serious that proposal is, even though it’s in their budget,” Cooper told reporters on Tuesday. “But we know for a fact that they are shopping the move of DHHS to various counties in order to get votes to override the veto. So to me, that shows that they’re willing to make a significant change and move in state government in order just to get a vote to override this veto instead of negotiating.”
The move will cost about $250 million. In Cooper’s initial budget proposal that was sent to the legislature in March, he proposed having DHHS move to a property on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh, which was already owned by the state. Now, however, his new proposal would put in place a study to see where it should be located.
Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, said he’s sure “that there have been conversations taking place with a number of people about whether a particular county” would be a good option for moving state employees out of Wake County. Berger said he, personally, has not offered the DHHS move up as a reward for voting to override the veto.
House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat, told reporters on Tuesday that five counties — besides Granville — had been brought up as potential locations for DHHS as part of the budget negotiation. Of those five counties — Wayne, Harnett, Guilford, Forsyth, and Cumberland — only one (Harnett) has only Republican members. The rest have a split delegation, with Democrats who have either already voted for the budget or who could potentially be seen as a flipped vote.
“I certainly think we should put divisions of state government where they need to be, where it’s most efficient for taxpayers, where the work is, things of that nature. Not to the highest bidder or whoever will give you a veto override vote,” Jackson said.