Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory made an unusual visit to the legislature Thursday to "touch base" with House and Senate lawmakers as the budget stalemate drags on.
McCrory, for reasons that remain unclear, tried to cut through a meeting room rather than using the hallway. But a House Rules Committee meeting was getting underway in the room at the time.
The governor looked surprised.
When House Rules Chairman Tim Moore called attention to his presence, McCrory thanked the committee for their work and proceeded through the room with his retinue.
Governors generally are not often seen at the legislature, but he denied that his visit was unusual.
"I come here often just to have interaction. I cut through here on the way to the house, back and forth to the house often," he insisted, referring to the Governor's Mansion.
"I usually don’t cut through the hallway of the Rules Committee, though," he added with a laugh. "That is the first time."
Spokesman Ryan Tronovitch later said the governor entered the room deliberately to engage with lawmakers and the public, not as an effort to avoid the hallway next to the press room.
McCrory also said he had no specific reason for Thursday's visit.
"All I’m doing today is touching base and continuing to have good dialogue," he said.
Asked how budget negotiations were going, the governor said he talked with Senate Republicans for 90 minutes Tuesday and sent staffers to talk with House Republicans on Wednesday about what he called "breakthrough plans on how to work out our differences."
One proposal he's been backing would solve the impasse over teacher raises and teaching assistants by allowing local school leaders to decide whether to use some or all of their teaching assistant allotment for additional teacher raises instead, which McCrory said "would really give more control of decision-making to those closest to the teachers and principals."
"I think some of the proposals we’ve given to resolve any differences are making headway, but we’ll see," he said.
The governor was less sanguine about his disagreement with Senate leaders over their plan for Medicaid reform and restructuring. The bill was scheduled to be debated at the time McCrory made his unannounced visit, a fact the governor acknowledged.
McCrory opposes the legislation and said he had given "very strong feedback" to Senate Republicans about it at their Tuesday meeting.
"Very good dialogue and clarification of where our differences are and respect for our differences," he said. "I've stated my opinion very strongly on those issues, and I also got feedback in a respectful way. That’s good progress."
After working the hallway briefly on the first floor, McCrory made his way upstairs for an appearance in the Senate gallery. However, Senate leaders delayed the debate on their Medicaid reform bill until after lunch.