Why do NC Republicans keep failing to pass a budget?
This week will mark the first day of Autumn, nearly three months after the June 30 deadline by which North Carolina’s legislature is expected to satisfy one of its most basic functions: adopting a budget. Once again, however, a dispute between the presiding officers of the NC House and NC Senate has indefinitely postponed action.
The point of dispute this time is not even a budgetary issue. Instead, it’s the determination by Senate President pro tem Phil Berger that no budget will pass without inclusion of a provision authorizing construction of four new gambling casinos in designated counties, one of which would be his home county of Rockingham. Berger is furious at being denied his pet project.
House Speaker Tim Moore has balked at that demand, saying that he doesn’t have the necessary 60 Republican votes to pass a budget without some Democratic support, and doesn’t have sufficient Democratic votes for the budget as is to make up the difference. And neither leader will cede any substantive negotiating power over the budget’s contents to members of the Democratic minority or the Governor, who has threatened to veto the budget over other issues.
Meanwhile, public schools across the state have started their fall terms without knowing what their funding will be; teachers and other staff go without knowing their pay for the year; and school administrations must guess at what expenses they can pay. Hundreds of thousands of low-income North Carolinians continue without access to life-saving health care, since the Medicaid expansion authorized by the legislature in March is contingent on passing a budget. Other state agencies and programs—from public safety to transportation to environmental protection—wait in uncertainty.
Environmental advocates are hardly anxious to see the current budget proposal pass, packed as it is with anti-environmental rider provisions undercutting clean energy, clean air, and environmental health. Yet the nature of this latest stalemate represents a case study of the impacts of the concentration of power and hyper-partisan politics ruling today’s General Assembly.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The remedy to what we see in today’s Raleigh politics is free and fair elections for state legislature and other state offices.