NC Senate Leader says GOP will give up on votes for override, old budget stays with no teacher raises

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina General Assembly returned to Raleigh briefly on Tuesday with a short to-do list, topped by another Republican attempt to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the budget more than six months ago.

But Senate Leader Phil Berger announced Tuesday morning that the Republican party is, instead, giving up on trying to get the votes.

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He assailed the Democratic party's "political loyalty" to Governor Roy Cooper and blamed Cooper's "cynical political posturing" and insistence on Medicaid Expansion.

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Republicans only needed one Democrat in the chamber to vote to override or two Democrats to be absent to get the necessary supermajority. Neither occurred last fall when Senate Republicans threatened similar votes.



While the House rammed through a successful override in September at a moment when dozens of Democrats were absent, the inability of GOP legislators to complete the override and enact their preferred budget became the symbol of the 2019 session. All of Cooper's vetoes were upheld last year as Democratic leverage improved, thanks to seats gained during the 2018 elections.

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Still, Berger kept trying to pitch the positives for Democrats to turn their backs on Cooper, arguing it would be the only way for teachers to get significant raises this school year. The proposed budget also included money for school construction and local pork projects.

Durham County Democrats chose retired 20-term state Rep. Mickey Michaux to fill the term vacated by Sen. Floyd McKissick, who resigned last week to serve at the State Utilities Commission.

Although McKissick and three other Senate Democrats actually voted for the GOP budget in June, the chamber's party caucus has closed ranks since to support Cooper.

Cooper and other Democrats oppose the two-year budget written by Republicans because it contained corporate tax cuts and lacked Medicaid expansion. Cooper also proposed average teacher pay increases that are double what the GOP offered.

Cooper said he wanted Republicans to stop trying to override and instead work with him on carving out a better, separate pay plan for teachers and other school personnel. Berger has said that's not going to happen.

"I hope that the veto will hold," Cooper told reporters last week. "But I also hope that the Republican legislature will take us up on our offer to negotiate a compromise."

While a vetoed budget means many GOP conservative policies have been blocked, state government continues to operate. Lawmakers spent the summer and fall passing several stand-alone spending bills for many key agencies, and Cooper signed nearly all into law.

Republicans point out that Cooper vetoed one such bill that would have given teachers the average 3.9 percent raises contained in the blocked budget. Senate Republicans also announced Monday that Tuesday's schedule will include potential override votes for the standalone teacher pay bill and a regulatory measure Cooper also vetoed.

Berger and House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis said legislation also could pass during the expected one-day session to close a funding shortfall for a college scholarship program for the children of wartime veterans. Lewis said the House also may consider some largely technical tax legislation.

After Tuesday, legislators aren't likely to meet until at least April, when the chief activity of the "short session" will be to draw up and approve spending alterations for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.