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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
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North Carolina legislature gridlocked over budget

The House and Senate are developing dueling budgets because the chambers cannot agree on spending.

RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) — The North Carolina House passed a budget Thursday morning in a whirlwind process as legislators attempted to move additional funding before the biennial 2023 budget takes effect.  

The House’s budget, which was first introduced Monday, will now be sent to the Senate. It isn’t expected to pass or be heard, despite both chambers’ Republican majority. If the two chambers are unable to reach a consensus, the two-year budget passed in 2023 will stand when the next fiscal year commences July 1. 

The Senate has been working on its own budget adjustment bill, which they introduced Wednesday evening and which passed its first committee Thursday morning. The senators have been more fiscally conservative with their budget projections, and President Pro Tempore Phil Berger has said that he believes the House’s budget spends too much from reserves. 

“What we need to do in order to even start going forward with a budget is agree on how much money we’re going to spend,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. “And right now we’re half a billion dollars apart on that question.”

Speaker Tim Moore said he isn’t anticipating any budget progress before the end of the month, and the General Assembly may instead take a recess in July and come back later in the year to address outstanding issues. If the Senate passes its own budget, Moore said, the House would not take it up on the floor, as it is the House’s year to draft a budget. 

“We will not respond well to negotiation tactics,” said Moore.

Berger also said the Senate would not be taking up the House’s budget.

Both chambers share similar priorities in funding private school vouchers and providing stabilizing grants for child care centers, but have been unable to agree on raises for state employees and teachers.

In the House, bipartisan support coalesced over avoiding the child care cliff, as federal funding supporting child care centers expires on June 30. The deficit is expected to erase nearly 92,000 child care slots in the state, and both Democrats and Republicans have voiced support for contributing state funding to prevent closures. Both proposed budgets will continue providing about 75% of funding to child care providers, each supplying at least $135 million in stabilizing grants.

Both chambers are focused on passing additional funding for the private school voucher program, with the House’s budget allocating $675 million to clear the waitlist and provide funding for all families who applied, without respect to their income. The Senate’s budget allocates $800 million in funding for school voucher awards but trims spending in other parts of the budget. The House’s budget includes $312 million more in net general fund spending than the Senate’s proposal. There is a $523.8 million difference in gross spending.

The House wants to include additional raises for teachers and state employees in its budget, increasing raises for teachers from the 3% allocated in the budget passed last year, to 4%. The Senate’s bill would keep the 3% raise passed last year. 

Moore said that the House hopes to be able to pass legislation retroactively to address private school voucher funding and the child care deficit, calling it impossible to pass a budget adjustment before the end of the month. 

The House and Senate would need to be in concurrence in order to pass a new budget into law, as Democrat Governor Roy Cooper has been vocal about opposing the school voucher program, and is expected to veto the budget. The Republican supermajority would need to be united to override his veto and pass the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. 

“There are a lot of similarities between the budgets, there are a lot of shared priorities,” said Moore. “We believe that the full budget that we’re proposing is the way to go.”

The Senate plans to take up its own budget bill Monday night. 

Follow @SKHaulenbeek
Categories / Government, Politics, Regional

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