Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is Alex Baltzegar.
On Friday, both chambers of the state legislature sent House Bill 259, the state budget, to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk for his signature. Shortly after the Senate passed the budget, Cooper said he would let the bill become law without his signature, citing the importance of Medicaid expansion.
"Make no mistake, overall, this is a bad budget that seriously shortchanges our schools, prioritizes power grabs, keeps shady backroom deals secret, and blatantly violates the constitution, and many of its provisions will face legal action,"
Cooper wrote in a press release.
Both the House and the Senate passed the budget with veto-proof supermajority margins.
The House voted on the budget at 12:30 AM on Friday. It passed the House with bipartisan support, 70 to 40 with five Democrats voting in favor. Reps. Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford; Carla Cunningham, D-Mecklenburg; Garland Pierce, D-Scotland; Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe; and Michael Wray, D-Northampton, were the five Democrats voting for the budget.
A coalition of young Democrats called for primaries against their five Democratic members who voted with Republicans for what they called "the most brazenly anti-Black legislation we've seen in years."
Four out of the five of the Democrats are black.
The Senate voted for the budget by a vote of 26 to 17 on Friday at 10:15 AM. On Thursday, the chamber had passed the budget by a vote of 29 to 18. Both votes were supermajority margins, but unlike in the House, the Senate passed the budget along partisan lines.
"I could not be prouder of the budget approved by the House today, and I am encouraged by the bipartisan support it received from my friends on the other side of the aisle,"
Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said. "Thanks to the fiscally responsible work of this General Assembly on behalf of the people of North Carolina, we have made significant investments where they are needed most."
Brian Balfour, senior vice president of research at the John Locke Foundation, said there was "Good, Bad, and Ugly"
in the state budget.
Balfour points to includes the school choice expansion, the continuation of tax cuts, several provisions regarding "medical freedom,"
combating the "destructive green agenda,"
prohibiting North Carolina membership in ERIC, and bond referendum transparency.
Balfour points to three items that fall into the "bad"
category: creation of a new welfare program, a new tax on ride-sharing services, and adding very little to the state's "Savings Reserve Fund."
Balfour also includes four "ugly"
- Billions set aside into "reserves," hiding true spending amount
- Nearly $2 Billion in "off budget" funding sent to opaque corporate welfare programs
- $500 million to NCInnovation
- Enabling Medicaid expansion
The Carolina Journal published a more in-depth article on some of the big-ticket items in the budget. Carolina Journal reporter Theresa Opeka provided an overview of the judicial changes made in the state budget.
Republican leaders in the General Assembly have received criticism for how long it took them to negotiate a new budget this year. Senate budget writers, Sens. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell; and Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, released the following statement regarding the budget:
"It takes time, collaboration, and a lot of back-and-forth to produce a good budget, and that's exactly what we have here. The budget provides the essential services North Carolinians need without encroaching on their freedoms. Our smart tax policy puts more money back into the pockets of hard-working families, and we've included infrastructure upgrades that reach every corner of the state. We look forward to this budget becoming law, and continuing the conservative governance that has helped make North Carolina a leader in the nation."