Disagreements could delay NC's new state budget, Medicaid expansion
North Carolina's state government might not have a budget when the new fiscal year begins next month.
Previous state budgets have been delayed by disagreements between the Republican legislature and Gov. Roy Cooper. This year, a veto-proof GOP majority will mean Cooper gets less say in the state’s $30 billion spending plan.
But with only a few weeks left in June, House and Senate Republicans aren’t yet close to a budget agreement. Senate leader Phil Berger says the disagreements include proposed income tax cuts and how to spend a roughly $3 billion surplus, as well as new federal funding attached to Medicaid expansion.
"There may be an element of, we’ve got these excess revenues, maybe we ought to cut taxes even more, and some folks might want to spend even more," Berger told reporters Thursday. "And so there’s a little bit of that going on as well."
Berger says that while negotiators from the two chambers are "making good progress," getting a deal in the final week of June is the most "optimal time, if everything falls into place." But "there's a chance" that won't happen until sometime in July. And even then, Cooper could veto the budget, which would set up an override vote.
Cooper has strongly criticized teacher pay and tax cut proposals in the initial House and Senate budgets, and he opposes expansion of a private school voucher program likely to be included in the budget.
Unlike the federal government, North Carolina won’t shut down in July if there’s no budget deal. Government spending will automatically continue at current levels until a new budget is passed. However, state employees and teachers expecting raises won't see them in their paychecks while the budget is in limbo.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley worries that Medicaid expansion could get delayed because it’s tied to the passage of a budget. Lawmakers approved expanding the government healthcare program to more than 500,000 people earlier this year, but that law won't take effect until a budget becomes law.
"You know, right now we need a number of approvals with the federal government," Kinsley said. "It’s really hard to get papers signed with a blank on the form that says ‘no date certain.’"
Kinsley says because the process of expanding Medicaid involves complex federal approvals, enacting a budget later in July could make it take longer to start enrolling more people in the program.
"Just a few days slippage on the budget can mean months of slippages in the long tail, based off how some of the things work in quarters and various things that we have to do with the federal government," he said.