Editorial: Amid monthlong stalemate, embrace compromise

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2019

More than a month ago, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the state legislature-approved budget, and North Carolina seems no closer today to finding compromise than it was in late June.

“This is a bad budget with the wrong priorities,” Cooper wrote in his veto message. “We should be investing in public schools, teacher pay and health care instead of more tax breaks for corporations.”

Since then and after the legislature was unable to override the budget, Republicans have all but climbed on the roof of the legislative building in Raleigh to shout, “the sky is falling.”

Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office, in particular, has taken the lead on lambasting Cooper, with his office issuing statements saying the veto threatens to cancel raises for state employees and jeopardizes vital funding for areas ravaged by Hurricane Florence. North Carolina is going without a new budget because of Cooper’s “Medicaid-or-northing ultimatum,” Berger’s office said.

Sen Carl Ford, R-33, has framed the veto in local context, saying money for Rowan and Stanly counties is uncertain because Cooper refuses to negotiate. Now, $53 million is in jeopardy, including money for schools, the Bell Tower Green Park and West Rowan Volunteer Fire Department, among other things.

“It’s not right to block all this funding just because of one policy disagreement,” Ford said in last week’s newsletter. “The governor is holding Rowan and Stanly Counties’ funding hostage over Medicaid expansion, and he refuses to drop his ultimatum so negotiations on the budget can move forward.”

That’s a slight departure from what he said last month. Speaking to reporter Liz Moomey in late June, Ford said about local funding, “I think it’s done … I think they’ll get their money. It may be delayed.”

On the other side of the aisle, seemingly every day Cooper’s office has repeated the line that there’s been no response from legislative Republicans on a budget compromise.

Amid the stalemate, the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer had a good idea — get Berger and Cooper to debate Medicaid expansion since that’s what’s brought forth the current predicament. A spokesman for Berger told the newspapers the Senate leader is ready to debate. Cooper is not.

In this case, Republicans in the legislature and Cooper are both guilty of playing politics with and contributing to the stalemate over the state’s budget. Fortunately, the state is continuing to operate on the prior year’s budget as our elected officials choose not to compromise. But that should not be the case for much longer. Cooper is unlikely to get Medicaid expansion exactly as he and other Democrats hope. And Republicans will need to give a little on Medicaid expansion if they want to ensure implementation of other priorities in the budget. It’s time to embrace the lost art of compromise.