NC Democrats condemn GOP plan to link Medicaid expansion to casino approval

By: - September 18, 2023 5:15 pm
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North Carolina Democrats are slamming a maneuver by Republicans in the legislature to tie Medicaid expansion to the approval of new casinos. 

Legislative approval of a state budget has been held up by a proposal to roll authorization for four new casinos into the budget bill. The Republican-led legislature voted for Medicaid expansion in March, but tied it to passage of the state budget. Expansion would offer about 600,000 state residents the chance at health insurance. 

Rep. Jason Saine, senior chairman of the House budget committee, told CBS17 that Medicaid expansion and casinos would be combined into one bill, and separated from the rest of the budget. The state budget is more than two months late. 

Democrats in the House and Senate denounced the tactic Monday. 

“For 78 days, our schools, families, economy, and our healthcare have been held hostage by the Republican supermajority’s determination to bring casinos to our state,” the Senate Democratic Caucus wrote in an open letter. 

“Now, having lost significant support within their own caucuses constituents for casinos, support it seems they never had, they are linking casinos to the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, gambling with their health and health and lives.”

House Democrats said in a letter that Republicans “are cynically using health care as a political bargaining chip to force passage of a casino bill developed in secret and written by casino lobbyists. It gives one company a monopoly and no opportunity for local citizens to vote on whether they want a casino.”

NC Development Holdings LLC requested and received a rezoning of property in Rockingham County and purchased land in Nash County, two of the four proposed casino locations. 

NC Development Holdings is connected to The Cordish Companies, a casino developer based in Baltimore, according to lobbyist registration reports. 

The state has three casinos owned by Native American tribes. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians owns casinos in Cherokee and Murphy. The Catawba Nation owns a casino in Kings Mountain.

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.