LEGISLATIVE REPORT - August 27, 2019
After nearly two months of trying to find the votes to override the Governor’s veto of the budget, it appears Republican leadership has changed their strategy. Last week and this week, Republican leadership has pushed House Bill 74, which was amended to be a bill that would refund taxpayers more than $660 million this fall, by giving those taxpayers refunds of $125 for individuals and $250 per couple (as long as the return paid that much in taxes for 2018). In an effort to get around a budget impasse, Republicans have also begun pushing legislation to the Governor’s desk containing mini-budget pieces which are particularly popular and will be difficult for the Governor to veto, such as State employee raises. On Thursday, the Governor called the push for House Bill 74 and the piecemeal budget bills “politics and gimmicks,” but did not say if he intended to veto the series of bills. Sen. McKissick commented on the matter and says he expects a veto from the Governor, and suggests that the refund legislation “seems more for political messaging.” These bills will be difficult for the Governor to veto from a political standpoint, and could potentially make it more difficult for Democrats to stick together to keep any vetoes from being over-ridden.
Gov. Cooper believes the State budget surplus would be better spent on education. He also said that this new strategy could suggest that Republican leadership knows that they won’t get the votes they need for an override, so this is “another way to try and get the budget 100 percent their way” by piecing the budget together.
Republican leaders plan to begin moving pay increase bills this week for state employees and teachers, but have not indicated how much the raises will be. The legislative budget provided higher raises for state employees, whereas the Governor’s budget provided bigger raises for teachers. Without the passing of the budget, teachers won’t be seeing their percentage raises or their $1,000 step increases they would have gotten through the final budget. Republicans hope that this will cause extra heat for the Governor with teachers as school starts back. With the Republicans’ wave of new bills and new strategy, it appears that the budget controversy has merely just begun and there is no end of session in sight.
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