A state House divided along party lines on Tuesday went along with the revised health insurance plan for state employees that still contains a major sticking point: requiring workers to pay premiums for the basic option for the first time.
The House approved on a 66-53 vote the conference committee compromise that the Senate approved on April 28. Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed an earlier bill over the premiums provision, saying it amounted to a pay cut for teachers, who haven’t had a raise in three years.
House Democrats said this latest version is the result of the Senate leadership running roughshod over the House, which had passed a bill without the premiums on a bipartisan 83-35 vote on April 20. Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat, urged House members to reject the conference report.
Jackson asked his colleagues to stand up to the Senate and send a message “that on occasion they have to compromise. … You need to give a little bit; you can’t just take all the time.”
Rep. Winkie Wilkins, a Durham Democrat who was on the joint conference committee, pointed out that he refused to sign the committee report.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Wake County Republican, said it was the best plan that could be accomplished. “No, it’s not perfect,” he said. “But then it never was going to be perfect.”
A spokeswoman for Perdue on Tuesday said the governor wasn’t in a position to say how she’ll react to this latest bill because she was was too angry over the Senate’s targeted cuts in education that were announced earlier in the day. “She’ll fight for the teachers,” said Chrissy Pearson, “but there’s a much bigger fight for the teachers ahead.”
At his weekly meeting with reporters this morning, Senate leader Sen. Phil Berger said he was still waiting to hear from the governor if she thought a compromise was possible. Berger said Perdue's failure to sign the bill has cost the state $28 million, referring to premiums that will not be collected until a plan is in place.