Cooper pushed Medicaid to its limit, budget documents show :: WRAL.com

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When it became clear that Republican lawmakers were ready to end negotiations and pass a budget with or without his backing, Gov. Roy Cooper made a final offer in a bid to bring North Carolina to the expansion of Medicaid.

At least vote on it, he told legislative leaders.

The two-page request was the last document written in more than a month and a half of back-and-forth between Cooper and key GOP lawmakers. Only a handful of written offers and counter-offers were exchanged, based on an open case request that Senate Speaker Pro Tem Phil Berger’s office filled in late Wednesday afternoon, two days. after lawmakers presented their final budget.

WRAL News had requested these documents from Berger’s office, House Speaker Tim Moore’s office, and Cooper’s office on October 20. None of these officials provided any justification for withholding these public documents for nearly a month.

Negotiations began in late September, with lawmakers sending the governor a package summarizing a budget worked out between House and Senate leaders. Among other things, it included 2 percent annual salary increases for teachers over the two-year plan, corporate and personal income tax cuts. That didn’t include the expansion of Medicaid – a key priority for Cooper throughout his tenure.

Lawmakers said they spoke to the governor, and legislative and administrative staff worked together. Both sides said good faith negotiations had taken place, although the governor’s office said Thursday evening that Republicans moved the goalposts towards the end of negotiations.

Both sides wanted secret negotiations, so full accounting may be impossible. But that half-inch stack of documents, released Wednesday only in hard copy form, sheds light on how the negotiations have unfolded.

October 4: Cooper’s first counter-offer

The governor responded to lawmakers in early October, calling for the extension of Medicaid and reminding them that if the state expanded the health insurance program, the federal government would inject an additional $ 1.3 billion over the next two years – an incentive included in COVID-19 stimulus legislation for the 12 states that have not expanded.

He also asked for $ 200 million more for K-12 education than what Republican lawmakers proposed in the first year of the budget, and $ 500 million more in the second. He wanted an average 8 percent increase for teachers over the two-year budget, compared to about 4 percent that lawmakers sent him.

He also proposed an alternative tax package, withholding tax cuts Republicans want by tying them to triggers. If government revenues remained healthy enough, reductions in the personal income tax rate, the corporate tax rate, and changes in the tax on business franchises would progress, but not as quickly as legislators wanted it.

Instead of a complete corporate income tax elimination that Republicans wanted, Cooper proposed a cut to 1.25% by 2032. The current rate is 2.5%.

October 19: Legislators’ counter

Republican leaders responded about two weeks later.

They would add another $ 100 million to the K-12 budget – half of what the governor wanted the first year and a fifth of what he asked for the second. They would also increase employee wages from the proposed 4 percent on the two-year plan to 5 percent.

They refused to change the teachers’ salary plan.

They also agreed to remove some 20 political provisions from the budget – things that had nothing to do with the money spent, but changed other aspects of state law. For example, the budget would no longer require teachers to post classroom material online, nor would it prohibit local governments from limiting tree cutting on private property.

Perhaps more importantly, they agreed to drop a measure limiting the governor’s power to shut down businesses and impose other emergency orders, which GOP lawmakers had wanted for months and Cooper had already vetoed it in a separate bill. This would end up being part of the final budget, which Cooper said he would sign, although implementation is postponed until early 2023.

October 27: Cooper’s second counter-offer

Cooper exposed two potential avenues later this month.

One: expand Medicaid, increase teacher salaries by 6% over the two-year budget, retain the additional $ 100 million offered by Republicans for K-12 funding, increase funding for building construction $ 500 million schools, make a few more changes and the governor would sign Republican tax cuts – including a total elimination of corporate tax – albeit on a longer timeframe than lawmakers want.

Two: Without the Medicaid expansion, Cooper said he would not approve the corporate income tax cut, but would agree to increase standard deductions and children’s deductions for the personal income tax, thereby reducing state income taxes.

It was around this time that the state’s top Republicans told reporters they could come up with a final budget on their own, taking inspiration from some of the governor’s proposals, but ultimately giving Cooper a decision to make or leave.

November 9: another try

Cooper made one final formal argument: Lawmakers wouldn’t have to expand Medicaid, but they would have to promise to put the issue to a vote in 2022.

Failure to do so, according to Cooper’s offer, would trigger a change in state law allowing the Cooper administration to extend Medicaid on its own.

The votes would not have to be successful, but they should take place. In the budget lawmakers voted on this week, lawmakers didn’t promise a vote – and they certainly didn’t allow Cooper to expand Medicaid on his own – but they did agree to a committee. study on scaling up Medicaid which will report to the General Assembly next year.

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