The U.S. Senate voted 61-38 today to break a filibuster blocking a measure that would help states pay for Medicaid and teachers' salaries.
North Carolina and other states are desperate for the Medicaid money. Under the stimulus law, the federal government has been picking up a bigger share of the cost of the government health insurance for the poor and disabled. Sates were counting on getting the extra money through July 2011, but it appeared as if the beefed up payments were going to end in December because of shaky Senate support for keeping them up.
Faced with the uncertainty, legislators wrote a budget that included a list of progressively painful steps that would have been taken in January had the money not been approved. After state officials had raided savings accounts, cuts would have hit the state's contribution to the pension system and would have eventually sliced 1 percent of all state spending.
The Washington Post reports that the amount the Senate approved was less than states had hoped for.
North Carolina would likely get around $300 million instead of $500 million.
Still, Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement that she was pleased.
“I want to thank the U.S. Senate, and especially Sen. Kay Hagan, for voting to move forward with Medicaid funding and money to keep teachers in the classroom," Perdue said in a statement.
"These were painful choices with money sliced from vital programs, but Senate leaders saw the catastrophe that would result from cutting medical care and putting thousands of teachers out of work across the country.
"This was the dire scenario I emphasized when I called members of our congressional delegation in recent weeks to push for this funding, and I thank them. I am confident both the Senate and House will ultimately approve this critical legislation.”
House Speaker Joe Hackney called the Senate vote "excellent news for education in North Carolina and for public school teachers."