Governor Cooper today hosted Senator Brent Jackson, Senator Kathy Harrington, Senator Harry Brown, Representative Donny Lambeth, Representative Linda Johnson, and Representative Jason Saine at the Governor's mansion to continue negotiations on the state budget. Democratic Leader Representative Darren Jackson and Charlie Perusse, the Director of the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM), were also present. Democratic Leader Dan Blue had a committee conflict but was fully briefed on the nature of the discussion.
Governor Cooper expressed his desire for a budget that he can sign and that it would be better to have serious budget negotiations now instead of a drawn out process. He spoke of the need to first have an agreement on the budget availability to set the framework for any consensus. The Governor indicated that everything - including Medicaid expansion - should be on the table and made clear that items such as corporate tax cuts, school vouchers and the SCIF took important budget availability away from priorities like education and health care. He stated that he wants options to expand health care coverage, including Medicaid expansion, to be on the table as a part of what is going to be negotiated to reach a compromise.
Republican budget chairs said that Medicaid expansion was a “tough issue” for their many in their caucuses. They voiced concerns with the existing Medicaid program and expansion and Governor Cooper offered counter arguments to each of their concerns.
The Governor proposed a two track negotiating process. One track would involve a small group to include Secretary Mandy Cohen with House and Senate leaders to negotiate health care issues including Medicaid expansion. A separate group would involve OSBM Director Charlie Perusse and other budget leaders to negotiate the larger budget framework.