Governor talks school bond referendum, Medicaid expansion during Tuesday visit

Governor talks school bond referendum, Medicaid expansion during Tuesday visit

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Gov. Roy Cooper made a pit stop in Wilmington on Tuesday looking to drum up support on two issues: More money for schools and expanding the Medicaid program.

Cooper started Tuesday’s visit by touring Mary C. Williams Elementary School, which was damaged by Hurricane Florence. Children and teachers were out of their classrooms for months after the storm and are just getting back to a normal routine.

“Hurricane Florence exacerbated the problem as to why we need a statewide school bond referendum that will help counties build more K through 12 schools,” said Cooper, who added his proposed $2 billion bond has counties paying for school buildings and the state taking up operations and teacher salaries. “The last time we had a statewide school bond was back in 1996. It’s time to do that again. We think close to $2 billion is something we need to help local counties, but there is really an $8 billion need.”

Cooper says the push for smaller class sizes across the state is case in point why schools need the bond to allow for more space for optimal learning. The governor had proposed the $2 billion school construction bond referendum for last November’s election but it failed to pass the legislature.

Cooper also met with county leaders and health care officials at Med North, hoping to gain local traction for Medicaid expansion.

“There are too many people that don’t have health insurance," Cooper said. "They are making it more expensive for everyone else.”

Cooper told the roundtable the General Assembly has the opportunity to bring down $4 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid that would help insure 500-600,000 North Carolinians.

“Medicaid expansion is a critical, smart, economic, business decision for our state,” Cooper said. “It means health insurance for more people, and more veterans, and 30 to 40,000 more jobs in the state.”

Cooper says 37 other states have passed Medicaid expansion, and that the federal government would foot most of the bill, funding 90 percent of the coverage. Healthcare providers and the state would take care of the last 10 percent.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed a bill banning Medicaid expansion. Then Gov. Pat McCrory said he would consider expanding Medicaid to about 500,000 state residents, but the state ultimately did not expand the program under McCrory.

Cooper says there is legislation pending in the House and Senate for Medicaid expansion.

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