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Steinburg: Overriding veto in Dem senators’ interest

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

State Sen. Bob Steinburg said Monday he is making the case to Democratic senators serving districts east of I-95 that overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto is in the region’s best interests.

Steinburg, a Chowan County Republican who represents a district that includes a large section of northeastern North Carolina, said the budget approved by the General Assembly and vetoed by the governor includes $250 million for a new Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, $40 million for a new library at Elizabeth City State University, and $2.5 million to begin the process of placing a crime lab on the ECSU campus.

Cooper emphasized in his veto message that the budget failed to include Medicaid expansion, which is expected to provide health care coverage for an additional 500,000 North Carolinians and which Cooper has argued is critical to the survival of rural hospitals in the state. The governor also argued that the General Assembly’s budget did not do enough for education.

Steinburg said the point he seeks to make in talking with Democratic colleagues in the Senate is that the budget funds important projects in the eastern part of the state.

“I’m pointing out in particular to those senators in the east, I am reminding them that there is an awful lot in this budget for northeastern and eastern North Carolina,” Steinburg said.

Those kinds of projects matter to Democrats and Republicans alike, Steinburg said.

When it comes to issues such as infrastructure and economic development, “Democrats and Republicans, especially rural legislators, very often come together, understanding the pressing needs that we have,” Steinburg said.

Although the General Assembly’s budget did not expand Medicaid, the House, after overriding the budget veto last week, is expected to take up this week the GOP-drafted “Carolina Cares” bill that has much in common with other Medicaid expansion proposals but includes work requirements and income-scaled premiums.

Steinburg stopped short of endorsing the legislation but said he believes Carolina Cares in something he could consider supporting.

“I think it has some merits,” Steinburg said of Carolina Cares. “I have a lot of confidence in the bill’s sponsors.”

It remains to be seen whether the Senate will even consider Carolina Cares if it passes the House.

Steinburg said he wouldn’t want to make any prediction about the prospect of the Carolina Cares legislation being approved by the Senate. He noted that Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger has not shown much interest in having Carolina Cares move forward in the chamber.

“You don’t want to ever say never,” Steinburg said, adding, “there could be negotiations going on behind the scenes at the very highest levels.”

Steinburg noted that while Senate Republicans still need one Democrat to vote with them on overriding the governor’s veto if all 50 senators are present, the dynamics change if some senators are not in their seats when the vote is taken. If some senators are absent it then becomes a matter of how many Republicans and Democrats are present.

“It depends on who’s there,” Steinburg said.

Steinburg said he believes it’s important to override Cooper’s budget veto in order to free up funding for projects and pay raises that are included in the budget.

“The primary goal is we want to get this budget operating,” Steinburg said. “All of this is being held up. We’d like to get moving forward with this.”

Steinburg said the Senate’s veto override vote will have to wait until the chamber completes court-ordered redrawing of legislative district maps, which a state panel of judges has said must be done by Wednesday.

“I don’t know whether there will be a budget override vote in the Senate this week or not,” Steinburg said.

He believes the Senate is close to having its new district maps. Fine tuning will be done early this week and a vote on the maps could come as early today or Wednesday, he said.

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