Archived Opinion

What Queen didn’t tell readers about budget standoff

What Queen didn’t tell readers about budget standoff

By Patrick M. Gleason • Guest Columnist

What Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, failed to mention in his recent column in these pages is that imposing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in North Carolina would require state government to spend an additional $6 billion in taxpayer dollars over the next two years alone. Those additional costs would have to be paid by North Carolina taxpayers. 

To put things in perspective, that $6 billion increase in state spending over the next two years represents a 28 percent increase in Medicaid spending and an 8 percent increase in total state spending.

Rep. Queen and other supporters of Medicaid expansion talk about spending billions more in federal dollars like that is free money. Two things to remember: 

• Money from the federal government is not free money. That money comes from the billions of dollars that North Carolinians send to the IRS every year. 

• The federal government is more than $22 trillion in debt, up from approximately $10 trillion in debt only a decade ago. Assumptions that federal government matching funds for Medicaid will continue forever at existing rates are not based in reality. 

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Rep. Queen issued a call to action in his column, urging readers to “call their elected representatives and tell them to negotiate with their duly elected governor.”

Rep. Queen’s orders to readers are misguided. The optimal conclusion to this budget standoff is for Rep. Queen and his colleagues to simply vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the budget that the General Assembly approved in June. Most members of the state legislature want to override Gov. Cooper’s budget veto, but they need a few Democrats to join them in order to achieve the two-thirds supermajority necessary to override the veto. 

Queen writes that without a new budget, “many things can’t go forward — raises, for example.” Representative Queen is correct, but all he needs to do to make sure those raises move forward is to join the majority of his colleagues in the statehouse who want to override Governor Cooper’s veto of the General Assembly-approved budget. 

Aside from Medicaid expansion, the other sticking point with the budget is Gov. Cooper’s opposition to the tax relief included in the new budget approved by the General Assembly in June. The General Assembly-approved budget provides tax relief for employers with a franchise tax cut and relief for all taxpayers by raising the standard deduction. 

Gov. Cooper indicated last week that he is not interested in reaching an agreement anytime soon when he unveiled a “compromise” proposal that entails spending even more money than his original budget called for, which was much more than the budget approved by state legislators. 

Rather than point fingers in opinion pages, Rep. Queen could show bipartisan leadership by helping his fellow legislators, the majority of whom wish to override the governor’s budget veto, enact the new budget passed by the General Assembly last month. 

Rep. Queen is correct that North Carolinians who want the budget standoff resolved should indeed call their representatives in Raleigh. Yet rather than tell elected officials to negotiate further with Cooper, as Queen instructs, taxpayers should instead urge Rep. Queen and his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly to join their Republican colleagues in voting to override the budget veto. 

Such a veto override will avoid billions of dollars in added taxpayer costs that Cooper is demanding, keep state spending in line with the rate of population growth and inflation, make sure pay raises get to teachers and other state workers, and do all of this while providing further relief to all North Carolina taxpayers.  

Patrick Gleason, a Haywood County resident, is vice president of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform and a senior fellow at the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based think tank. 

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