I have a mission statement: I want a North Carolina where people are better educated, and healthier, with more money in their pockets and where there are more opportunities for people to have lives of purpose and abundance. I say this every day because I mean it. That’s why I’m disappointed that the legislature ended the year without negotiating better pay for educators or health care for working North Carolinians.
We started the year knowing health insurance was available to half a million North Carolinians if we accepted Medicaid expansion, like 37 other states. We had a chance to pay teachers more of what they deserve. We had a chance to build new schools and get better pay to other school personnel, community college and university employees, as well as a better cost of living increase for state retirees.
But the legislative budget failed to deliver. After vetoing it, I sent a good-faith compromise to Republican leaders. My proposal did more for educators, school-support personnel, state employees and retirees. It expanded Medicaid. It proposed a responsible school construction bond. And it pushed back against yet another sweeping corporate tax cut. I also reluctantly accepted many Republican proposals as part of the compromise.
Unfortunately, instead of negotiating to bridge the gap between our positions, Republican leaders spent all their time trying to override my veto — a strategy for which they did not have the votes if they played by the rules. When trickery didn’t work, they began slicing and dicing the budget into dozens of parts, just like the ultra-partisan Congress does with the federal budget. That doesn’t work well in Washington, and it won’t work well here in North Carolina.
We are elected to do the hard work of governing, not just the ribbon cutting and the tweeting. North Carolinians elected a more balanced state government in 2016 and 2018, and that requires Democrats and Republicans to roll up our sleeves and compromise.
Real people lose out when lawmakers in Raleigh and Washington fail to do that hard work. At the end of this session, the second-longest in North Carolina history, it is unacceptable that, despite other state employees getting raises, teachers still have not gotten a significant raise to keep our state competitive with our neighbors.
It’s just as wrong that the legislature took no action to expand Medicaid. We could get health care to 500,000 more working North Carolinians without costing any state taxpayer dollars.
We will keep fighting for our teachers and our students, and we will keep advocating for families who need health care, because these challenges are not going away.
My budget veto still stands because enough members of the General Assembly agree that we must do more. This veto prevented some bad things from happening. We stopped another corporate tax cut that would harm our ability to properly fund our classrooms. We stopped a scheme that would make school construction funding unreliable and siphon funds from school safety, teacher pay and textbooks. And we stopped further growth of the unaccountable private school voucher program that takes money away from public education.
While stopping these bad policies is important, we can’t settle for a list of bad things that didn’t happen. That’s not how government should operate, and we don’t have to accept dysfunction.
I’m proud of action that my administration has taken to help move our state forward. This year, so far, we’ve announced almost 20,000 new jobs. We’re tackling the climate crisis head on. We’ve reduced infant mortality and unintentional opioid-related overdose deaths in our state. We’ve invested billions helping North Carolinians rebuild from devastating hurricanes in a stronger and smarter way.
I’ve expanded access to paid parental leave. Through the Finish Line Grants program, we’ve awarded more than 2,900 grants to help people stay in school despite unexpected financial emergencies.
We won’t stop there. I will keep working with anyone for a North Carolina that is better educated, healthier and where people have more money and freedom to live lives of purpose and abundance. Tell your legislators that when they return in January, they should come to the table and work with me to help our state.
The writer is governor of North Carolina.