A new fiscal year for North Carolina began on July 1, but our state government leaders have yet to agree on a budget for 2019-2020. Both the State House and State Senate passed budget bill HB 966 after many hours of negotiation, debate, and compromise, but Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the proposed spending plan last Friday. The Governor claimed the budget “prioritizes the wrong things. It values corporate tax breaks over classrooms, gimmicks over guaranteed school construction, and political ideology over people.”
While Cooper had demanded a Medicaid expansion be included in the budget, House and Senate leaders passed HB 966 without any such expansion written into it. “This is and has always been about Medicaid expansion,” President Pro Tempore of the NC Senate Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said. “The governor is blocking funds for teacher and state employee raises, the rape kit backlog, the Human Trafficking Commission, and other crucial investments so he can brag to his far-left base that he vetoed the budget over Medicaid expansion.”
Important areas financed by the proposed budget include pro-life funding. HB 966 grants $1.2 million for each of the next two years to the pro-life nonprofit Human Coalition, to “encourage healthy childbirth, support childbirth as an alternative to abortion, promote family formation, assist in establishing successful parenting techniques, and increase the economic self-sufficiency of families.” Additionally, the budget would grant $400,000 in each of the next two years to Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship. Funds appropriated in the 2018-2019 fiscal year would also remain available until the end of the 2019-2021 fiscal biennium, “to provide grants to clinics that apply to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship for durable medical equipment, training, or a combination of both.”
This budget bill would also continue school choice options for lower income families by maintaining the previous budget’s long term funding of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which Governor Cooper proposed to end. Similarly, applications for scholarship awards for students with certain disabilities would remain available “for qualifying education expenses to attend a nonpublic school.”
Finally, the Senate version of the budget bill included a 50% increase in state lottery advertising, from over $24 million currently to over $36 million for each of the next two years. Thankfully, this was not part of the agreed upon conference report, which is a compromise between the House and Senate budget proposals.
Both Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senator Berger have said they plan to take a vote to override the Governor’s veto. HB 966 passed with a veto-proof majority in the Senate—that is three-fifths of present and voting members—but not in the House. Some of the Democrats who voted for the budget bill have said they will now stand with the Governor to sustain his veto.
The new 2019-2020 fiscal year began on July 1. Until a new budget is passed and signed by the Governor, government agencies and programs will continue to operate under the guidelines of the current budget.