Raleigh, N.C. — Is the key to a budget deal a locked door and a plate of sandwiches?
Gov. Pat McCrory spoke for an hour Monday with WFAE, a Charlotte public radio station, covering a number of topics, including the current budget impasse. McCrory told host Mike Collins that he was looking for a middle ground.
"I did it with tax reform last year," McCrory said. "The Senate Republicans came up with a tax reform I thought went too far and would put at risk our budget. The House was a little bit more moderate, and I was probably somewhere in between. I brought major legislative leaders into a conference room in the old State Capitol building ... and basically locked the door and brought in some bologna sandwiches in and said, 'We're not leaving here until we get it resolved.' I may have to do the same thing here with this."
So was that the way it happened?
"I think that's pretty accurate," said House Speaker Thom Tillis, although a nearby staffer quipped that he remembered there being roast beef and cookies.
Asked if thought the meeting was a pivotal part of the budget talks, Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said that it came at a key moment. "I think it was a key part," he said.
So, would a similar closed-door picnic be the thing to cure this year's budget impasse, which has pitted the House and McCrory versus the Senate for more than a week?
Tillis didn't say.
"I hope we do something," said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson.
Apodaca couldn't remember if the doors were really locked during that Capitol meeting, but he said that tax package negotiation was much as McCrory described.
"It worked," he said. "I would consider that one of the high points in terms of working together."
More notes from McCrory's conversation:
- Asked why the sate didn't expand Medicaid, McCrory repeated two well-worn answers, saying the state was working on repairing the existing system and the uncertainty surrounding future costs of offering Medicaid to those with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level. That said, he didn't reject the notion outright. "I'm leaving that door open once we fix the current system," he said.
- He said politics had led the General Assembly to pass a bill that would have stripped him of his appointments to the Board of Review, a three-member panel that serves as an appeals body for unemployment claims. He vetoed that bill.
"I appointed a former Democratic mayor of Greensboro on the commission, which I thought ought to be a bipartisan commission, and then I appointed two others. And frankly, I had a state legislator who wanted the job and I did not give it to her."
The mayor McCrory referred to was Keith Holliday, a former mayor of Greensboro. Sens. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and William Rabon, R-Brunswick, played a key roll in crafting that provision. In an interview two weeks ago, both men denied that Holliday was a problem, both saying they didn't know his name or background. Rather, they said, McCrory had failed to make the appointments by the timetable set up in the law.
The lawmaker in question is widely acknowledged to be Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, who has denied wanting the post.