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Editorial: Now is time to seek true compromise

Contrary to statements by legislative leaders, the ongoing stalemate over the state budget is a good thing.

After Gov. Roy Cooper last month vetoed a budget passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, Republicans have failed to round up enough Democrats to support a veto override. A party-line vote would not be enough because Democrats broke the GOP veto-proof majority in last year’s election.

And reporting by the News & Observer indicates Republicans are attempting to hold out the proposed relocation of the Department of Health and Human services as a carrot to entice Democrats to vote for the override. The Raleigh newspaper reported Wednesday that five counties — four of which had mostly Democratic legislators — were now being considered. That’s compared to the Senate’s budget proposal, which had only proposed Granville County, which stretches from the Raleigh-Durham suburbs to the Virginia border.

That a state budget haw not been passed does not mean the sky is falling, as statements from the GOP have implied. A stopgap budget is moving its way through the legislature. What’s more, most of the existing state budget continues automatically whether a not budget is passed on time or not.

Amid a budget stalemate, now is the time for Republicans and Democrats to dust off a long-dormant tactic on the spending document — compromise. When supermajorities, Democrat or Republican, are in place, one party can easily avoid seeking support from the other side.

George Washington, our nation’s first president, in his farewell address spoke about the danger of political parties, saying they might “become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people.” Especially when given power like a veto-proof majority, budgets and other major pieces of legislation can be passed without containing any meaningful input from the other side, leaving us one step further from the vision America’s founding fathers had for this country.

Cooper has held up the state budget because of Medicaid expansion. His ideas about how expansion should look may not be the right solution for North Carolina, but ensuring more North Carolinians have access to affordable health insurance is something that Republicans and Democrats should both be able to support.

We’re optimistic that the stalemate in which North Carolina finds itself will result in an elusive give-and-take over what would be a major component of the state’s budget. Cooper should be willing to compromise just the same as Republican legislative leaders.

When compromise prevails, it means government is working for constituents, taxpayers and voters.

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