Top Republicans: Medicaid expansion likely, sales tax increase unlikely

With two days to go until the North Carolina General Assembly is back in session, the state’s top two Republicans visited Charlotte to discuss their priorities with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger discussed numerous priorities with business leaders in a 45-minute conversation and answered questions from reporters.

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Medicaid Expansion:

Moore and Berger said they believe Medicaid expansion will pass this year. The issue has been debated and discussed for years. North Carolina is one of a few states not tapping into the funds. Berger said final negotiations are underway on telemedicine, certificate-of-need and scope of practice. He said “there is fairly clear support” for the issue. Moore said he believes enacting Medicaid expansion won’t put the state in a bad financial position.

“I don’t think the money is going away at the federal level,” he said. “I think the 90-10 match is there and that is what makes it palatable to do it.”

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Sales tax increase:

The city of Charlotte wants to pursue a sales tax increase to fund major transit projects including new light rail lines and improved bus service. The city needs approval from voters and the General Assembly to give permission to seek the sales tax increase through a referendum. Following the talk with business leaders, Moore and Berger expressed skepticism over a sales tax increase. Berger isn’t sure there’s support on the issue. Moore said transportation projects should be more focused on roads instead of rail or bikes.

“When we talk about transportation, it is not more of these bike lanes, not more of this rail and all of those things that cost so much and really serve a limited purpose, but really increasing the capacity when it comes to our roads and thoroughfares,” Moore said.

“I do think that any effort to increase the sales tax is something we will have to have very pointed conversations with members and whether or not support exists for that remains to be seen,” Berger said.

Mobile sports betting:

Berger says “the prospects are pretty good” that mobile sports betting passes this year. The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance is advocating for the legalization of mobile sports betting.

“It is something that I believe has the support of the majority of both chambers,” Berger said. “It is something that the public, I think, overall supports. It is something that if you have a telephone, you already have access to it. You are not supposed to, but it is there.

Abortion

Moore says he anticipates the House putting forward abortion legislation. He did not go into specifics but says he is talking to Democrats about the issue.

“I can only imagine the stress a young woman is under when she is having to be confronted with that, so I think we need to address it is a compassionate way that takes that into account but also takes into account we are talking about another life,” he said.

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