Democrat celebrates 'mini-budget' Governor called a trick

By Pete Kaliner

September 3, 2019

It's been about two months, but the Democratic leader in the North Carolina House now admits that he and the Governor have been leveraging teachers and state employees - blocking pay raises in order to force the Republican legislative leaders to expand Medicaid.

The GOP overrode Gov. Roy Cooper's veto in the Senate, but don't have the votes to do so in the House. The Democrats accuse the Republicans of refusing to negotiate with the Governor - although the GOP leaders say the Governor dodged them. They say they offered a special session to examine and adopt ways to expand heath care in NC. The Democrats refuse.

All this time, Democrats have made the absurd claim that they are not blocking the budget in order to shove Medicaid expansion into the spending plan. They deny it's an ultimatum. But it has been. And now the lie is laid bare.

Republicans started moving smaller pieces of the budget (mini-budgets) last week. They started with pay raises for state workers and teachers. Gov. Cooper called it a trick. He and his fellow Democrats said some of the raises should be higher. He said it was a reason he vetoed the budget, too. It wasn't just about Medicaid expansion! It was about pay raises, too!

And then he signed the GOP's pay raise plan - proving that, no, it's really about forcing Medicaid expansion into the budget.

This prompted my tongue-in-cheek tweet:

"Governor caves to GOP demand for employee and teacher pay raises"

This was obviously a joke (note the use of quotation marks), and was meant to highlight how the story can be framed to fit a narrative.

But the NC House Democratic leader, Darren Jackson, noticed it - and couldn't help taking a victory lap:

Rep. Jackson says the mini-budget (that Gov. Cooper called a trick) is actually a victory for the Democrats, you see. They didn't have to "give up anything." He says the raises that the GOP passed were the raises the Democrats wanted, too.

This, of course, means they've been blocking pay raises in order to extract a surrender on Medicaid, and the Governor's comments about the pay raises not being adequate were a lie. They never were deal-breakers. It's always been about Medicaid.

Further, Rep. Jackson is elated that state workers will now stop lobbying to override the Governor's veto - because they got their pay raise. I have no doubt that he's correct about this. Democrats know better than anyone how to harness government workers to pressure lawmakers to raid the treasury.

But the reason these employees are getting their raises this year is because the GOP moved the mini-budgets - over the initial objection of the Governor. And, if you believe Rep. Jackson, they did it despite the loss of negotiating leverage.

This is something Democrats wouldn't do.

Sen. Ralph Hise noted the schizophrenic approach of the Governor and his Democratic allies:

"On one hand he signs four mini-funding bills related to law enforcement and state employee salaries, but then he vetoes a bill years in the making to streamline the state’s Medicaid system because he says that he doesn’t like these mini funding bills. Even he must realize how absurd and nonsensical this looks, as he tried to hide his erratic behavior by dumping the news on Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend in the hopes that people won’t be paying attention. 
“The fact of the matter is Governor Cooper is perfectly willing to grind state government to a halt over one issue, but he lacks the political courage to go the distance and veto popular salary increases for state employees.
“Meanwhile, he vetoes $483 million in funding to implement an overhaul of the state’s Medicaid program and in the same breath would ask us to expand that program. This is incoherent and indefensible, and it’s difficult to conceive a path forward on addressing the needs of this state when confronted with this type of behavior, as it appears that not even Governor Cooper really knows what his end game is.
“Medicaid transformation was a bipartisan effort to control the growth and costs of Medicaid and focus on improving the health of recipients. The Governor’s veto puts us back on an unsustainable path that is bad for doctors and bad for patients. With this decision it appears he has slammed the door shut on improvements or modifications to the Medicaid system.” 

This is another example of how Gov. Cooper is perfectly willing to use citizens as bargaining chips to advance his own personal political agenda. As more mini-budgets come before him, it'll become more obvious to more people.

Pete's Prep: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019

  • John Hood at the Carolina Journal: "In general cost-effectiveness, our state’s roads and bridges rank a bit better than average. We fare well on some measures. But when it comes to the safety of rural roads, North Carolina comes in next-to-last."
  • Ray Nothstine from the Civitas Institute writes in an op-ed at the Charlotte Observer: "North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, at least in the current political climate, is well positioned for reelection in 2020. However, a potential vulnerable policy area that is constantly overlooked by most is Cooper’s leftward lurch on gun-control."
  • Report from The Center Square: "North Carolina is offering $1.2 million in tax incentives to Carvana, a move that the Cooper Administration says will result in nearly $512 million for the state’s economy. The e-commerce car sales platform plans to open a new inspection and reconditioning facility in Cabarrus County. The Concord facility’s staff will inspect, refurbish and process vehicles for online sales."
  • John Boyle at the Citizen-Times: "Since the sentencing of the Wanda Greene gang last week, I've gotten several variations of the following question: Why do convicted government employees still receive a life pension? Why is there a reward for time served for corrupt officials?"
  • Huzzah! Katie Waddington at the AC-T brings us the good news - that construction is getting underway at New Leicester and Patton Ave - to add more turn lanes.

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