Chief budget negotiator
Published August 8, 2019
The standoff over the budget is a great example of the perils of one-party rule. For most of this decade, Republicans in the legislature held veto-proof majorities, or close to it. They got accustomed to passing legislation and routinely overriding governors’ vetoes, regardless of whether the governor was a Democrat or Republican. They made Republican Governor Pat McCrory look so weak that they can probably take some responsibility for his defeat.
Now, the tables have turned. As the saying goes, elections have consequences. Republican lost their veto proof majorities in both chambers and the Democrats are standing firm behind Democrat Roy Cooper’s vetoes. By cutting Democrats in the legislature out of the budget-making process, they empowered Cooper to become chief budget negotiator. Now, they’ve got to deal with him.
Republican leaders keep thinking they’ll be able to override the budget on a quick vote when a handful of Democrats are absent from the floor. That hasn’t happened. According to Democratic legislators, their resolve is getting stronger. Nobody’s cutting side deals and everybody is showing up. Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue and House Minority Leader Darren Jackson get credit for holding their caucuses together.
On the Republican side, the frustration is showing. Last week, House Speaker Tim Moore flexed his muscle by forcing Democratic Representative Ray Russell (Watauga) to move into a closet sized office to accommodate an appointed incoming Republican representative. He didn’t intimidate any Democrats; he showed his pettiness.
On social media, Republicans claim the Governor is holding the budget hostage. That’s a bad analogy. Cooper has every right to veto the budget. That’s why the people of North Carolina voted overwhelmingly to give the governor that power just 23 year ago. Cooper submitted an alternative budget as a starting point for negotiations but the GOP seems more intent on either waiting for an opportunity to override or refusing to pass a budget at all.
If the GOP doesn’t pass a budget that Cooper will sign, then they haven’t done their jobs. It’s their move. They should make one.
Republicans will try to blame Cooper in the 2020 elections, but I doubt that will wash. Voters won’t know the details of the budget breakdown but they will know that the people they elected haven’t done their jobs. It’s just another reason to fire an incumbent at a time when faith in leaders is already lacking. They would be wise to discover the art of budget negotiations.