In May as soon as the Notables and Honorables who serve in the State Senate arrived in Raleigh and settled into their seats, they glanced at Governor McCrory’s Budget, flipped it into the waste bin, and substituted their own budget.
What happened to Medicaid’s an example. With their usual delicacy, the Old Bull’s in the Senate discarded the Governor’s plan then, after a few moments debate, passed their own plan.
Now one problem with Medicaid is the darn thing always ends up over budget – no one in the Department of Health and Human Services (or in the legislature) can figure out how to write a budget that’s accurate – so at the end of each year Medicaid’s awash in red ink and, to their chagrin, at the last minute Senators have had to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to plug the holes.
Finally, the Old Bulls had had enough and came up with their own plan – they decided to dump the whole train wreck on Managed Care Organizations (corporations that manage state Medicaid programs for a fee) which didn’t sound too bad except no cure is perfect and this one had a glitch the Old Bulls hadn’t fixed: The more care the Managed Care Organizations deny sick people the more money they make.
Now Senator Phil Berger’s as nice a guy as you’ll ever meet. He’s soft-spoken. Polite. Courteous to a fault. But when it comes to passing legislation the State Senate – where he rules the roost – is like a dyspeptic elephant wielding a blunderbuss.
It’s either shooting something or stomping someone all the time.
But when the Honorable Senators fired both barrels at the Governor an odd thing happened – the Governor showed a flash of temper and said a nasty four letter word: Veto.
It was like zapping the elephant with a cattle prod.
The Senate and Governor were eyeball to eyeball with the Old Bulls betting the Governor wouldn’t have the temerity to make good on his threat – but, in a way, they’d also handed the Governor an opportunity.
For the last year, every time they’ve had a disagreement with the Governor, the Senate Republicans – who have a veto-proof majority – have marched in lock-step and rolled right over him.
The Older Bulls pointed the way and Younger Bulls dutifully fell in line.
But it’s a hard truth that, in fact, the Governor has more power than the Old Bulls. He has a bigger soap-box. He’s more popular with Republicans. Has more supporters. More money. And, this fall, the Governor can do a lot more to help a struggling Senator – facing a tough campaign – than the Old Bulls in the Senate.
And if the Governor had a handful of loyal Republican friends in the Senate who’d work with him (instead of marching in lock-step when the Old Bulls point the way) there would be an earth-shaking shift in the balance of power in Raleigh.