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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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North Carolina Senate passes budget in ongoing stalemate

Republicans may control both chambers, but North Carolina’s legislature remains gridlocked as lawmakers quibble over budget items.

RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) — The North Carolina Senate passed their budget Monday night, amidst an ongoing dispute between the two chambers.

The Senate and House have been unable to come to an agreement on how much additional spending they want to approve before the fiscal year starts on July 1. If they don’t reach a compromise and pass a budget before then, the biennial budget they passed last fall will be in effect — but it doesn’t include additional funding.

Speaker of the House Tim Moore says it is the House’s year to draft a budget, but isn’t interested in taking up the Senate’s proposal. The Senate says that the House wants to pull too much from state reserves.

Both chambers have very similar budget priorities, with funding focused on eliminating a waitlist of applicants for private school vouchers and providing stabilizing grants to child care centers. Federal funding runs out at the end of June and legislators want to prevent a child care crisis.

Lawmakers haven’t been able to agree on teacher raises: The Senate wants to maintain the raises it allocated in the previous budget, and the House wants to increase teacher raises from 3% to 4%. The Senate is more fiscally conservative, and Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger has said they will not be approving as much state spending as the House wants to pass.

Moore has said he is uninterested in dividing the budget up piecemeal and passing legislation that both chambers agree with. Berger says that that option is in the House’s hands, as it sent over a smaller bill providing school voucher funding earlier in the session and the House has not taken it up.

The Senate’s budget is a 5.5% increase over the 2023-24 budget, only 1% less than the House’s proposed 6.5% increase, but there is a $523.8 million difference between the two in gross spending. Last week, Berger said that the starting point for negotiations to continue would be determining how much they’re going to spend.

On the floor Monday night, Republican Senator Ralph Hise pointed out that the two chambers don’t have any real disagreements barring spending.

“There is nothing in this proposal that I have heard from a House member that they are opposed to,” said Hise. “It’s not everything they want, I promise you that, but I don’t even think that even their bill can have everything they want. But there is no reason this week that we should not take up this bill, pass it into law and continue the discussion about other things.”

In the Senate, Democrats pushed for additional funding to help support child care centers and to increase wages for teachers. The Senate’s budget would fund 75% of the grants that child care centers were receiving from the federal government, comparable to the House’s plan. Republicans have emphasized that the grants are a temporary solution to the child care crisis and that they plan to work on a more long-term solution when they return in January.  

“When it comes to our children, 75% should never be acceptable,” criticized Senate Democratic Whip Jay Chaudhuri. “I believe that each of us expect better of our children, we should expect better of ourselves as legislators. But we seem to be okay with temporarily funding just 75% of our child stabilization grants that will result in nearly a third of child care centers closing their doors, teachers leaving and fees raised on parents. We should be 100% in, not 75% helping our working families meet child care needs.”

Democrat Senator Rachel Hunt applauded child care funding, but called the lack of teacher raises a glaring gap in the budget. 

“Our current pay structure is driving talented teachers out of the profession and discouraging new teachers from entering,” Hunt said. “An increase in teacher pay will help us attract and retain high quality teachers who can provide an excellent education.”

The Senate’s budget will now be sent to the House for consideration. Berger has said that the Senate plans to conclude their schedule for the session this week, but that they can’t adjourn without the House’s permission. The House is expected to recess for July and return in the fall. 

Follow @SKHaulenbeek
Categories / Politics, Regional

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