The Transylvania Times -

Compromise On State Budget

 

August 12, 2019



It has now been more than a month since the state government was supposed to pass its budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, and it has been more than 30 days since Gov. Roy Cooper presented a counter-proposal to the General Assembly’s budget.

The Republican-led General Assembly has yet to make a counter-offer to Cooper’s counter-proposal; some believe they are waiting until a time they can call for a vote at which some Democrats would be absent and they can override the governor’s veto.

With public schools, which receive the largest single portion of the state budget, scheduled to open within the next two weeks, the Republican leaders of the General Assembly need to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a compromise so that all state agencies know what funds they will have available to them and state employees know what their salaries and benefits will be for the upcoming year.

Some of Cooper’s compromises seem quite feasible, while others could be reduced through negotiations with the Republican leadership. For example:

• Cooper wanted to eliminate vouchers for private school use. Republicans want to expand the funding and increase the income limit for those who could qualify for vouchers. Cooper’s compromise is to leave the voucher program as it currently stands. That is a reasonable compromise since the private schools receiving vouchers have to meet no accountability measures as to how they use these public funds and there are no required assessments to indicate whether or not the students using vouchers are receiving a quality education.

• Cooper has agreed to the Republicans’ requests to increase the standard deduction for individuals but has refused to cut corporate taxes further. Among states that actually tax corporations, North Carolina has the lowest tax rate in the country. Since the economy is doing well, it does not make sense to further cut taxes on corporations, many of which are flush with cash.

• Cooper wanted a 9.1 percent average increase in teacher pay for all teachers over two years. The Republicans passed a budget that would have provided a 3.8 percent increase over two years and a one-time bonus. Cooper has countered with an 8.5 percent increase over the two-year period. If the Republicans counter with an offer of 6.5 percent, that would be the midpoint between the two original opposing budgets.

The elephant in the room is Medicaid expansion. Cooper believes it should be expanded so that an additional 500,000 North Carolinians will have health insurance. He claims the increased coverage also will result in more jobs for medical professionals and a lifeline to struggling rural hospitals. Proponents of expanding Medicaid note that it would not require a tax increase. They point out the amount “pork spending” in this year’s Republican’s proposal is $286 million, which would more than cover the cost of expanding Medicaid this year. On Aug. 7 the state Republican party issued a press release stating the state has a budget surplus this year of $896 million. The state has more than enough money to expand Medicaid without raising taxes.

Critics claim the state cannot depend upon a federally funded program. But as we’ve written before, it’s highly unlikely the federal government would renege on a program now operating in 36 states, or if it did, it would be unlikely the courts would require states to continue funding the expansion.

Good governments meet the needs of all the people, not just one party or those who donate to political parties. Expanding Medicaid coverage would help meet the health insurance needs of more than a half million state residents.

Good government is about compromise. People have diverse needs and wants. Cooper already has accepted many of the proposals in the Republican budget and has made counter-proposals in many of the areas in which they disagree. It is time now for the Republican leadership to come to the table with their counter-proposals and negotiate a compromise budget so that state agencies and employees can move forward in meeting the needs of the residents of North Carolina.

 
 

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