Kidwell’s vote on state budget hinges on casino legislation

Published 3:08 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

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Representative Keith Kidwell has announced he will not vote for the overdue state budget if legislation to add new casinos in North Carolina is part of it. 

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Governor Roy Cooper initially announced his recommended $67 billion state budget in March; however, Republicans debated throughout the summer – exceeding a July deadline – their concerns which included adding casinos in rural portions of the state. 

These locations could include Rockingham, Nash and Anson counties as well as one location in Southeastern North Carolina, per an article from WUNC. 

At this time, North Carolina Republicans are divided on casino legislation. Though it has support from the Senate, it doesn’t have enough votes in the House, according to Speaker of the House Tim Moore who spoke to reporters last week. The House would need at least 60 of 72 House Republican votes for a state budget which includes gambling to pass. 

Sharing a similar view as fellow House Republicans, Kidwell believes casino legislation should be a separate bill from the budget so that legislators “can vote with their conscience.” 

“If the casino legislation is not moved through appropriate committees and presented to the NC House as a stand-alone bill, allowing each member to vote their conscience, I will vote no on the budget,” Kidwell stated in a press release from his office. 

Kidwell believes incorporating casino legislation into the budget forces legislators like himself to vote for the budget though their constituents may be opposed, or they have religious objections to casinos. 

“As for me, I will not vote for legislation that changes the tax structure, appropriations and the moral face of NC if the bill has not been through the proper process,” Kidwell stated. 

Until the state budget is passed, a previously agreed upon Medicaid expansion cannot go into effect giving more than 600,000 North Carolinians health insurance who previously had none. The General Assembly voted in March for Medicaid expansion, and it was scheduled to be implemented Oct. 1. Because the state budget has not been passed, Medicaid expansion cannot begin. 

A new launch date will not be determined until the North Carolina General Assembly provides final authority. Without more clarity on when that will occur, NCDHHS is not able to commit to a timeline beyond its control. Work, however, will continue so NCDHHS, county and community partners are ready to go live as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this delay will further strain providers who are gearing up to serve people who would be newly eligible,” the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced in August.