Cooper still hopeful on budget deal with NC Republicans
RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Entering a second month of active negotiations with lawmakers, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday that he was still hopeful they could hammer out a state government budget that he can sign into law.
Cooper sent a budget counteroffer to GOP legislators later Wednesday — an action the Democratic governor signaled at a COVID-19 news conference he would complete. Spokespersons for Republican legislative leaders confirmed receipt of Cooper’s latest offer.
House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger and Democratic lawmakers met in person with Cooper on Friday, a few days after the GOP leaders sent him their latest bargaining document.
The first two-year budget offer from Berger and Moore was sent to Cooper in late September. The fiscal year began July 1.
“I want more people with health care. I want more investment in education,” Cooper told reporters, also mentioning taxes as another topic of contention. “And Republicans have their priorities as well. So we’re talking back and forth and look forward to reaching a resolution soon.”
Moore said Tuesday that negotiations could end as early as next week, meaning Republicans may try to pass their own plan and work to override a Cooper veto if no consensus can be reached. Cooper declined to put a timetable on completing negotiations, saying “until you reach an agreement, nothing should be final.”
“I’m going to continue to work hard to try to get us there, and if we don’t get there it’s because I believe that it is a bad budget and I won’t sign it,” Cooper said, adding that he remained positive about the prospects of reaching a consensus.
Specific details about budget offers have largely been kept secret by the principal negotiators. But Cooper said the executive and legislative branches both support spending money on high-speed internet in rural and isolated areas, water and sewer systems and higher education buildings.