The North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh
The North Carolina General Assembly adjourned after a brief session in January still in the midst of a budget impasse, but most lawmakers agree that the proposed budget was a good one, a District 73 state House representative said during a recent interview.
"Probably 75 percent of the legislators in both Houses agree this is a good budget," North Carolina state Rep. Walter "Lee" Zachary Jr. (R-Yadkinville) told the Yadkin Valley News.
Fear – particularly that of Gov. Roy Cooper – has kept Democratic lawmakers, the minority party in both chambers, from supporting the proposed budget, Zachary said.
North Carolina state House Rep. Walter "Lee" Zachary Jr. (R-Yadkinville) | ncleg.gov/
"Many of our Democratic members are afraid to 'cross' the governor, mostly in the Senate," Zachary said. "There's still time to pass the budget, and there's time to draft mini-budgets that will provide funding for many projects without getting into the major issues. Hopefully, this break will allow cooler heads to prevail and we can move on."
Zachary has represented North Carolina's state House District 73 since 2015. He is expected to face Democratic challenger William Stinson (D-Boonville) in November's general election. Zachary soundly defeated Stinson in 2018 for another term in the District 73 seat.
The North Carolina legislature adjourned a one-day session in January after an override of Cooper's veto of a pay raise for teachers failed in the Senate. Democratic lawmakers have said the teacher pay raise of 3.9 percent over two years is not enough. Another budgetary sticking point is Medicaid expansion, which Cooper has said must be included in any budget he will approve.
Now the general assembly is adjourned until April and Zachary says no one is happy with the budgetary impasse.
"We always hate to have these budget fights but there comes a point when we need to stand up and fight for what we believe is best for the state," Zachary said. "We offered compromise in House Bill 655, which would expand Medicaid for low-income working families as long as the federal government continued to provide funds. Without the federal funds, funding of the expansion would require large tax increases."
HB 655 was filed in the state House last April by primary sponsors Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem), Rep. Josh Dobson (R-Raleigh) and Rep. Donna McDowell White (R-Clayton). It has been stalled in committee since September. Constituents who want the budget passed can take the matter in hand during the weeks before the general assembly returns to session, Zachary said.
"Constituents will have to let their representatives, both House and Senate, know that they want this budget," he said. "Maybe there needs to be more spent, maybe not, but this budget is a step in the right direction."
Zachary also was pragmatic about the budget itself.
"Rome wasn't built in a day and the problems we face won't be solved in one session – or two for that matter – but we need to keep hammering at the problems," he sad. "I understand the need for health care, but throwing money at it will only increase some of the problems and not get to a solution."