by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
State senator Wiley Nickel and state representative Julie von Haefen, both Democrats from Wake County, are holding a press conference this afternoon to show how concerned they are about retirees and teachers.
Sen. Nickel jumped the gun with a string of tweets last night calling for new negotiations on budget bills. With less than four months left in the fiscal year, what new is there to discuss in negotiations and how long would that take?
The General Assembly passed a bipartisan budget that Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed. The House overrode the veto, despite Rep. von Haefen’s opposition, and now the Senate just needs a single vote to override the governor’s veto and have a budget immediately in place, with no negotiations and no delays.
If that’s not enough, the General Assembly also passed mini-budgets to provide pay raises to teachers in public schools, community colleges, and universities, and higher benefits for retired state employees. Gov. Cooper vetoed those, too. Two months after the legislature adjourned for the 2019 session and two months until the legislature will be back to start the 2020 session and begin work on the budget for next year, these two legislators instead want to start a new round of negotiations for what would be three months of the current fiscal year. Does this make sense?
Instead of holding a press conference, Sen. Nickel could simply commit to being the last vote the Senate needs. He can, instead, use his time this afternoon to tell Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and the people of North Carolina that he’s ready to set aside partisan politics for the sake of teachers and retirees and override the budget veto. He can even continue to complain that he would have wanted to do more for everybody, but he would do so without using teachers and retirees as pawns. He would also provide immediate money for capital needs across the state, Medicaid transformation, community colleges, and more of the things he says are important.
Let’s get it done now for the people of North Carolina.