The fight over the budget is our government starting to work again

Published July 11, 2019

North Carolina is getting a political show in the legislature like we haven’t seen in a long time. For the first time since 2012, Republicans in the legislature face a governor with enough Democrats in the both chambers to sustain his veto. The budget the GOP pushed through with little Democratic input is now in limbo. 

Republicans need at least six Democrats in the House and one Democrat in the senate for enough votes to overturn Roy Cooper’s veto of the budget. An override vote was scheduled in the house but never happened. Speaker Tim Moore is trying to use parliamentary tactics to make a vote easier but so far he’s failed to find the opportunity he seeks. 

Cooper, for his part, has issued a compromise budget. Republicans, of course, say it’s no such thing. They complain that Cooper has pushed a Democratic budget that falls short of anything they’ll pass. But that’s the way politics is supposed to work. Both sides roll out their wish list and then hammer out some sort of agreement that probably leaves both sides dissatisfied.

Cooper is insisting on Medicaid expansion. Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger, who jetted off to Germany last night, says that starting with Medicaid expansion is a non-starter. House Republicans seem more willing to negotiate but they want work requirements. Cooper says it would cost more to enforce the requirements than to leave them out of the bill. Still, as the governor acknowledged, it’s a start. 

We’re going to see a lot of threats and teeth gnashing over the next few weeks, but like I said, this is our government working. We just haven’t seen very much of it lately. In both Congress and the legislature, elected officials have taken an all-or-nothing approach to governing. It’s been bad for our state and nation. 

Partisans on both sides of the aisle have demanded, and at times gotten, legislation or appointments without any compromise. Partisans have decided it’s better to have no loaf than half of one. A certain segment of the left has decided that incrementalism has failed the country and left us with an intolerably unjust society. Partisans on the right would prefer obstruction and stagnation to anything that might shift resources to struggling or marginalized people. 

The fight between the legislature and the governor might look ugly, but it’s actually beautiful. It’s our system of government starting to work again. The Founding Fathers never envisioned a government controlled disproportionally by one side. They tried to devise a government based on compromise that would lead to slow but steady progress and avoid dramatic swings that could lead to uncertainty and instability.