On Wednesday North Carolina’s House and Senate made a major breakthrough on the state’s budget. There’s no finalized deal yet but one of the major issues looks to have been resolved.
After weeks of waiting and political posturing, it was a surprise to hear Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown utter these four words, "We will accept your numbers."
He made that statement towards the end of a conference committee meeting which was notable for being open to the public.
Brown and House Senior Budget Chair Nelson Dollar had come prepared to haggle.
The biggest sticking point for the two sides was money for Medicaid. According to Brown, the state has had to bail out Medicaid again and again at a cost of almost $2 billion over the last few years. So the Senate proposed cuts to the program which covers medical costs for the poor and disabled.
Dollar said his colleagues did not agree. "We do not believe it would be justified to take additional, serious cuts that would affect real lives and real people in need."
Instead, Dollar offered to increase the amount of money the house would put into the program. Dollar offered $136.5 million for a potential Medicaid backlog.
And since the state only pays a percentage of Medicaid money, that number would grow to $409 million once Federal grants were added said Dollar.
And that’s how we got to those four magic words, "we accept your numbers."
"This kind of reminds me of selling a car a little bit," said Senator Brown in reference to his day job. Representative Dollar's response? "Senator Brown, you haven’t sold the car yet but we do like some of the features."
Members of both the House and the Senate now get to kick the tires of this partial agreement. And they still have to work through other outstanding issues like teacher pay.