Cooper vetoes state budget

Gov. Roy Cooper is pictured in a file photos from Wednesday, February 14, 2018 in Raleigh. On Friday, Dec. 15, 2018, Cooper vetoed the Voter ID bill.

RALEIGH — Governor Roy Cooper (D-NC) on Friday vetoed the recently-passed state budget, setting up a veto override battle with GOP majorities in the General Assembly.

The $24 billion budget was passed on Thursday with a 33-15 vote in the Senate and 64-49 vote in the House. The Senate vote, which included four Democrats, exceeds the threshold of 30 for overriding the governor’s veto. The House vote, which included three Democrats in one of the preliminary votes, would need to bring at least a few more Democrats over to reach the 72 votes needed to override Cooper’s veto. The final vote in the House was supported by lone Democrat Rep. Howard Hunter (D-Gates) with Reps. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) and Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland) – who voted for the second reading of the bill – receiving excused absences.

In his veto message, which contained only 33 words, Cooper said, “This is a bad budget with the wrong priorities. We should be investing in public schools, teacher pay and health care instead of more tax breaks for corporations. Therefore, I veto the bill.”

This message is similar to Cooper’s 2018 veto of the state budget, which was overridden by the General Assembly. In 2018, Cooper said the budget “protects corporations and the wealthy at the expense of schools and students.”

Cooper’s stated primary legislative goal was the expansion of Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of additional able-bodied adults, which the legislature did not include in the final budget. In a tweet, Cooper said the “budget fails to close the coverage gap in North Carolina” along with a graphic stating that Medicaid expansion would expand coverage to “more than 500,000 North Carolinians.”

In response to the veto, Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) said, “This is and has always been about Medicaid expansion.”

Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) pushed for an House override in a statement Friday. “Blocking billions of dollars in funding for North Carolina communities less than a day after receiving the budget is a reckless and irresponsible decision by the Governor that must be overridden to deliver critical investments in infrastructure, disaster relief, public safety, pay raises, and school construction, to our state’s citizens,” said Moore.

At a Friday press conference, Cooper said he was vetoing the budget “because it fails in many ways” and that it was an “astonishing failure of common sense and common decency.” Cooper also said that “many are dying” because N.C. has not accepted Medicaid expansion.

If the General Assembly cannot override the governor’s veto or the sides do not reach an agreement on a new budget, the current budget will remain in effect until a new budget is passed.