Governor Cooper’s office and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry Hall responded to the legislature’s decision not to provide funding for the Eastern Carolina Veterans’ Cemetery. Instead, legislators directed Secretary Hall to keep all veterans’ cemeteries open, but did not provide any funding to do so.
The Goldsboro cemetery was opened in 2015 with a $5 million federal grant and requires $200,000 to cover operating expenses over the next two years. Governor Cooper requested almost $600,000 (p.69) for veteran cemeteries that would turn from receipt-funding to recurring funding to create more stability. Legislators failed to include these funds in the House budget, the Senate budget or the Conference Budget. When the issue came to light, some Republicans responded by saying, “There are ample funds in the account to take care of any problems.” Others indicated they had no idea the funding was needed despite Cooper’s budget request and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs requesting it. Following public outcry, legislators pointed fingers, unbelievably arguing that the issue was somehow Cooper’s fault, but failed to fix the underlying problem, ordering the cemetery to remain open without providing recurring funding to do so.
“In three separate budgets, legislative Republicans failed to include funding for the Goldsboro veterans’ cemetery and instead of fixing the mistake, they are pointing fingers and playing shell games with the budget of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Their alleged solution robs Peter to pay Paul, and legislators should quit the games and provide the funds needed to operate this property as Governor Cooper’s budget did,” said Governor Cooper’s spokesman Ford Porter.
“I’m a Marine, so I know how to tough it out and find solutions in hard times. But there is no reason to shortchange our veterans right now. They gave their good and faithful service to our state, country and their communities. I’m glad legislators now understand the importance of paying for employees and expenses required to keep this cemetery open. However, paying for it from veterans’ burial fees is a short-term solution that short-changes veterans’ cemetery needs in the future. They are ultimately cutting veterans’ services and that is neither sustainable nor responsible. North Carolina Veterans’ services should be above partisan politics. I urge the legislature to permanently fix this so we do not have this crisis every budget cycle,” said Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry Hall.