By Cady Thomas
Governor’s State of the State Address
On Monday, March 6, Governor Cooper gave his State of the State address. As this only occurs during the odd-numbered years, this will be the last address he gives during his term. He highlighted the state’s efforts to bring companies to NC and thanked the legislature for reaching an agreement on Medicaid expansion.
He also noted he will release his budget proposal next week which will include $1 billion to deal with mental health and substance abuse issues. A copy of Governor Cooper’s address can be found here. A copy of the Governor’s mental health plan can be found here.
Bills and Legislation
Budget Spending Cap Deal Reached
Last week, House and Senate Leadership agreed on the 2023-34 budget spending numbers. The first year will be $29.7 billion(a 6.5% increase) and the second year will be $30.8 billion (a 3.75% increase). The House will start the process this year and expect to pass their budget in April.
Governor Cooper released his budget on March 15. His priorities include raising teacher pay and investing in mental health. Other highlights can be found in his press release.
Speaker Moore and Pro Temp Berger immediately sent press releases sharing their dissatisfaction with the spending. Speaker Tim Moore said, “Governor Cooper’s budget proposal takes the same reckless approach to spending that his fellow Democrats have taken in Washington. Unfortunately, this kind of runaway spending has resulted in a failing economy that has left millions of Americans behind.”
Senator Berger’s response was similar as he said “This is an irresponsible, unserious proposal from a lame-duck governor who wants future North Carolinians to pick up his tab. Gov. Cooper wants to go on a reckless spending spree by raising taxes, raiding the state’s savings account, and proposing the largest increase in year-over-year spending in the state’s history. He is following the same failed Democratic playbook that is causing residents to flee blue states like New York, California, and Illinois.”
Next steps – the House is expected to pass their budget before Easter. The Senate will then pass their budget and we will go into a conference process.
Medicaid Expansion Deal
Another deal reached by House and Senate Leadership last week was how to expand Medicaid in NC. Once finalized, the Senate moved the bill through committees. This week the House is voting for concurrence and then it will head to Governor Cooper for signature. HB 76—Access to Healthcare Options also makes changes to Certificate of Need (CON) laws, allows for participation in the Healthcare Access and Stabilization Program (HASP), and will only become effective once the state budget becomes law.
State House member Wesley Harris has announced he will run for State Treasurer in 2024.
Senate Senator Rachel Hunt has announced she will run for Lt. Governor in 2024.
Other Important Items
EV Truck Sale Rules
Members of the Environmental Management Commission have warned regulators that the rules to establish zero-emission trucks will not take effect in January. “I’m impressed with your optimism on that schedule, but I don’t believe this commission has ever got a rule out in six months,” said Charlie Carter, a lawyer who’s on the group’s air-quality committee.
Governor Cooper has pushed for the rules to be completed by May 15th to start the rulemaking process.