Our lawmakers are developing some of the bad habits of their cohorts in Washington.
This would make amusing theater — at least, for folks who find the impeachment hearings enthralling. Now, however, it appears to be costing the people of North Carolina. And it must stop.
Some background. Normally, North Carolina’s General Assembly approves a two-year budget by June of the year after an election. Then all those part-time legislators go home and go back to being lawyers, doctors, farmers, hardware store managers, etc.
Not this year. North Carolina still doesn’t have a budget, and it looks as if we won’t get one until January, maybe.
Our Honorables have latched on to the congressional practice of approving parts of the budget in drips and dabs, keeping enough of state government running so the Little People Back Home won’t howl with outrage. The last bit, however, continues to elude them.
In recent years, the Republican majority simply pushed through whatever they wanted. When the voters slipped up and elected Democrat Roy Cooper governor in 2016, the GOP bosses just worked around him, overriding his vetoes with ease. (North Carolina’s chief executive has an especially weak veto. The legislature needs just 60 percent of a chamber’s votes to override a veto, versus two-thirds at the federal level.)
Then, in 2018, the voters went astray again, depriving the Republicans of their supermajority.
Needless to say, Cooper and the GOP leadership differ on a few issues. He wants to extend Medicaid coverage to more folks who are working but don’t have health insurance through their employers and can’t afford a private plan. The Republicans, however, would rather eat worms. Too expensive, they say.
Cooper would also like to pay public school teachers more. The Republicans raised their pay a little, but apparently would like to use more money for private school vouchers.
Now, in civics class and among adults, the two sides would argue awhile and then negotiate. Each side would strike a bargain, get some of what it wanted and wait for the next election to pitch their case to the voters.
Well, this ain’t civics class.
Instead of negotiating, the House called a snap vote on a day when many Democratic legislators were away. With few Democrats in the room, the Republicans got their 60 percent majority.
The Senate has been trying to pull the same stunt, but once burned, the Democrats have been vigilant. The Senate has been getting called to order, but with too many Democrats in the room, there’s a quick recess.
Others besides political observers are starting to take note. Recently, Moody’s, the credit rating agency, declared that the budget standoff “reflects governance weakness and is credit negative.”
Thanks to decades of hard work — and compromise — by both parties, Moody’s has given North Carolina its top rating — AAA. When the state has to borrow money by issuing bonds, Tar Heel taxpayers get the lowest interest rate possible, saving the state hundreds of millions and making each dollar borrowed to do things like building schools go further.
The folks at Moody’s are saying that if we keep this silliness up, that may not be the case much longer.
Republicans would say this is all Cooper’s fault. Cooper is saying the same about them. With local legislators home, they need to be asked why they put up with this charade — and what they’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
We think it takes two to tango, and they’re doing the wrong dance.