Republican lawmakers will continue to push forward partial spending bills this week.
Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger told reporters Tuesday that Republican lawmakers plan to file another series of piecemeal budget bills to finance state expenses stalled by Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the legislature's overall budget.
“We are wanting to clear the deck of items that have broad bipartisan support,” he said. “There is no reason to hold these things up because of an unrelated disagreement on the budget override.”
This week, lawmakers will review tax credit bills, funding for a juvenile justice program, the Department of Transportation, rural broadband and community colleges.
Cooper vetoed the $24 billion budget in late June because of a partisan dispute over Medicaid expansion and teacher pay among other things.
The House successfully voted to override Cooper’s veto on Sept. 11.
It will now take a three-fifths vote from the Senate to complete the override and adopt the overall budget.
Berger said the Senate will not vote on the override this week, but he could not predict what would happen next.
“After this week though, things are a little more uncertain,” he said. “I’ll remind everybody that the budget conference report passed the Senate with bipartisan supermajorities twice.”
The spending bill passed the Senate with a 33-15 vote on June 27, a day before Cooper’s veto. Senators must be given a 24-hour notice before an override vote. They may only have a few weeks to do so.
Berger said he expects the Senate to adjourn by Oct. 31.
He told reporters that several Democrats have told him they want to support the budget but are afraid of political backlash from the governor.
“In the face of the governor’s refusal to sign a budget unless the legislature passes Medicaid expansion, we’ll continue to engage Senate Democrats on the possibility of a veto override,” he said. “What I’d actually prefer, though, is a negotiated compromise with Senate Democrats.”
Berger said that he wants to work with Democrats on their other budget priorities and hold a special session to discuss Medicaid expansion possibly in January.
While Berger spoke in the media room at the state capitol, Democratic Sen. Dan Blue and Rep. Darren Jackson hosted an information panel on Medicaid in another room.
The speakers included residents affected by a coverage gap – people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford Health Care Marketplace premiums.
Sen. Natasha Marcus, D–Mecklenburg, said that the panel “debunked” all of the GOP’s “talking points.”
“Too bad no Republican legislators were here to listen to these compelling testimonies from Republican and Democratic citizens and the economic analysis by Dr. Ku,” she wrote on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
Leighton Ku, director of the Center for Health Care Policy Research, touted the benefits of expanding health care coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act.
“If Medicaid is expanded it would be an economic boom to the state of North Carolina as well as helping people get health insurance coverage…” he said.
Republicans oppose expansion in part because of the overall cost.