After Democrats broke the Republican supermajority in the N.C. House of Representatives and Senate in the 2018 election, State Sen. Terry Van Duyn believes her party colleagues in the General Assembly will have more political clout during the upcoming session.
For one, they can now prevent Republicans from overriding a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper.
“We can’t necessarily drive an agenda, but we can influence an agenda,” she told the members of the Council of Independent Business Owners during a breakfast meeting at UNC Asheville on Friday.
Education and health care are two of the biggest slices in the state’s budget pie, and Van Duyn is looking for progress on both fronts during the legislature’s upcoming session.
Van Duyn hopes to see a school bond on the 2020 ballot, which could help address the cost of construction and renovations for K-12 schools in poorer parts of the state. An April 2016 study completed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction says counties in North Carolina will have nearly $8.1 billion in school capital needs over a five year period.
The recent decision by the state legislature to reduce classroom sizes, Van Duyn suggested, has put even more pressure on schools. “That’s created a shortage of classrooms across the state,” she said, “but it’s a significant problem in our rural counties that don’t have the tax base to construct those buildings.”
She also hopes to see some bond money set aside for community colleges and the state’s university system, which she said has a $2 billion maintenance backlog.
And Van Duyn wants greater focus on problems associated with school testing. “I hear from parents all the time that they’re frustrated about the amount of testing, whether or not that’s paying the dividends that it should, given the time that goes into it,” she said.
2019 could also be a major year for changes in state health care, Van Duyn said. In October 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid approved the General Assembly’s 2015 vote to transition its state Medicaid program to managed care. This decision would move North Carolina from a fee-for-service system, in which services are paid for separately and physicians are incentivized to provide more treatments to patients, to a capitated system, in which providers receive a flat fee for each patient.
“The idea is that if you pay your providers on a capitated basis, they have more incentive to keep people well,” Van Duyn said. “And if they keep people well, they make a little more money because they’re not spending it, and it saves the state money.” That approach also transfers some of the risk associated with the care from the state to providers, she said.
Running for Lt. Governor
In December 2018, Van Duyn announced her intention to run for lieutenant governor in 2020. She told members of CIBO that she’s running for the position because she believes her vision for North Carolina aligns with Cooper’s. That includes building a more equitable state economy.
To reach that goal, Van Duyn wants to see North Carolina become one of the ten most educated states in the country. “I think that’s how we draw business to North Carolina,” she said.
Van Duyn added that building a strong state economy also involves expanding Medicaid because “people can’t work when they’re sick or broken,” a fact she said was readily apparent during her time working as an Affordable Care Act navigator.
“I saw time and time again people come in who were working maybe 20 hours a week because that was all they could handle,” she said. “Their diabetes was out of control, or they didn’t have access to mental health drugs that might have made it possible to work more.”
Van Duyn said she’s looking forward to bringing “a mountain perspective” to the state capital. “I think that’s sorely lacking,” she said.
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 5:37 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 14, to clarify the timing of the $8.1 billion in school capital needs described in the April 2016 study by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.