NC Senate Releases Contentious Budget Proposal
North Carolina Senate leaders are gearing up for another budget battle with their counterparts in the state House and Governor Pat McCrory, even before releasing an actual budget document.
Senate leader Phil Berger joked about it, actually, when previewing the budget’s timeline at a press conference Monday.
“We hope to have everything wrapped up Thursday and have the budget on the way to the House—where we expect a grand reception and substantial support,” Berger said to laughter.
Senate leaders say their proposal raises spending by 2 percent—a third the amount the House passed last month.
Instead, much of the state’s $400 million budget surplus would go into rainy day funds. They still increase funding for schools and the UNC system, but by about half the amount proposed by the House.
It does not include a bolstered film grant, nor extensions of expiring tax credits for renewable energy and renovating historic buildings.
“That is not in our budget,” said Majority Leader Harry Brown, the number two Republican in the Senate. “We have always felt with tax reform that making it as level a playing field as possible is important.”
Probably most controversially, the Senate budget includes a proposal introduced last week to redistribute sales taxes, pushing them from urban areas to rural ones. Governor Pat McCrory called it a non-starter Friday.
“I don’t even see a compromise,” he said. “I don’t think it should be opened up for a discussion, because it’s not our tax. It’s not the state government’s tax; it’s local government’s tax.”
Even where the Senate plan agrees with the House and McCrory, it disagrees. The Senate plan will include a Medicaid overhaul, as House leaders called for last week. But the Senate would favor insurance companies playing a much bigger role in managing patients, while House leaders want doctors and hospitals to have that responsibility.
All three plans would raise starting teacher pay by $2,000, but the Senate forgoes a 2 percent across-the-board raise for all others in favor of targeted increases.
Under normal circumstances, such wide disagreements could kill a bill. The reason lawmakers can stake such different proposals is that, to keep government running, they’ll eventually have to find a compromise.