It's been four weeks since Governor Cooper vetoed the budget approved by the General Assembly, and there's no sign of legislative leaders or the governor coming to an agreement. Instead, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger have been trying to get conservative Democrats to join them in overriding the governor's veto.
To talk about the budget impasse, WFAE's Morning Edition host Lisa Worf is joined by Speaker Moore.
Worf: You need seven votes from Democrats to override the governor's veto in the House. And you've been saying for the last couple weeks you're close on getting the votes. What's the holdup?
Moore: Well, the holdup is to is to get those final votes. But we are we are very close.
Worf: How close are you on getting the votes?
Moore: Well, I don't want to give the numbers but we're close and I'm in regular contact with Democratic members on this and there are a lot of them who really want to vote with us on the override. But they're really concerned of retribution from the governor and from the party I mean their words not mine.
Worf: And you were there were a number of members who Democratic members who voted for the budget initially and also got several local projects in their district funded. Why offer those projects if they may not vote on a override vote?
Moore: Well, what I'll say is in terms of the projects that we fund in the budget we go through and look to see if those are good projects and good use of state taxpayer dollars. And if you look at where a lot of the grants and investment went in terms of some of the projects it went to some of our rural areas in the state that really have seen some of the roughest times in recent years and so we believe that we should look at ways to try to make sure that all of North Carolina grows and that all of North Carolina experiences the prosperity we do. And so we think those are great projects and so those members I would argue are voting for the budget because they realize this is a budget that invests heavily in their district and it's what's best for their constituents.
Worf: So you're still working on trying to get the override but I mean you don't have the super majority now. It's been some pushing for a couple weeks. Where's the compromise on your part?
Moore: So we have offered - and I think it's important understand that the budget process. Once the Senate and the House had resolved its differences, we sat down - Senator Berger and myself - on a number of occasions reached out to the governor and said OK this is where we are on a budget. Where are you in terms of being able to sign a budget? Here are our numbers, here are the figures. These are the funding priorities. These are the amount of revenue that we're projecting and so forth. And we could never get past with the governor. The whole issue of him wanting to make Medicaid for all part of the budget. They do not have to be intertwined. They are totally separate things. You can do one without the other.
Worf: You have had a bill introduced in and actually get out a committee on to the House as far as Medicaid expansion.
Moore: That's correct.
Worf: How come there's been no votes on that at this point?
Moore: What I've told members and then I've told specifically Democratic members who are worried about about Medicaid is that when we vote on the override we will then immediately vote on that bill. And I suspect that that bill would pass as well. And that way it's honoring the commitment that I've made that we will deal with the issue. But it is a separate bill from the budget.
Worf: But if it's been such a holdup why not just merge those two and get the budget passed then?
Moore: Well, that's certainly what the governor would like for us to do. But that's not something that we're going to do because we believe, I believe they are two separate and distinct issues. And I will tell you that what the governor is talking about doing is not what we have proposed. We propose doing something basically for those folks who are working, who are trying to make it, who are doing all they can but who are just coming up short affording health insurance. The governor basically is proposing a plan of "Medicaid for All." It would be one of the largest expanses of any kind of program in the state's history and that has to be paid for somehow. You would have to raise taxes to do those things.
Worf: But he's indicated that he might be willing to consider something like the bill that's come forward at this point. And if it sounds like it has bipartisan support as you say why not try that out?
Moore: And I'm glad you say that because that's exactly what we've done. We have moved that bill. It's there on the floor. All he needs to do - of course, he can't sign the budget now it's done. All we need do is override the veto. And then I feel confident we're going to pass the Carolina Care's bill in the House and then it will go to the Senate and, of course, I can't speak for the Senate but I know it'll have its own process to go through there as well.
Worf: The governor has offered what he calls a compromise of course as we were saying expanding Medicaid as part of that. But besides that what would you like to see the governor budge on in his budget proposal?
Moore: Well, for one the governor spends $400 million more than he even originally proposed spending. So that's another nearly half billion dollars in spending that would have to be paid for somehow. But we didn't create this crisis. We did what every legislature heretofore has done. We have passed a budget that funds the priorities the state that gives teachers a pay raise that gives state employees a pay raise that puts badly needed money into capital projects around the state to keep the state moving forward. It is the governor who has brought up one single issue and is holding the entire state budget hostage over one issue. When we talk about a compromise that's not really a compromise that that's that's more like a surrender for the legislature to just adopt that position because we've been upfront that those need to be two separate discussions.
Worf: And with the budget impasse I mean there's the governor saying I won't do it without this and the legislature saying we won't do it with this.
Moore: You know, that's a fair summary or at least we're saying that we're not going to do it as a part of it. It's not going to be a part of the budget. It will be two separate discussions and there ought to be the ability on that issue to get folks together to get that resolved.
Worf: That's North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore. Speaker Moore thanks.
Moore: Thank you very much. Good to be with you.