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Politics
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Are State Budget Negotiators Ready To Sing From Same Page? Not Quite Yet

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It’s been a week since Governor Pat McCrory announced a number, a big one actually, $21.74 billion. That is how big North Carolina’s budget will be when it’s finalized. This was billed as a major breakthrough in negotiations between the House and Senate, who have very different spending plans for the state. So are they ready to sing in harmony yet?

A budget deal requires the House and Senate to sing a kind of fiscal duet with an agreed upon framework as their guide. In that spirit, Republican Representative Chuck McGrady serves as my partner as I talk through a couple numbers.

The budget is:

  • 56 days overdue (as of Tuesday, August 25). "We’re inching closer," says McGrady.
  • Two continuing resolutions to temporarily fund the state. "This is going to continue to take more time."
  • 4th – as in if a budget isn’t done by the end of this month, the end of the current continuing resolution, this will be the fourth most overdue budget in 44 years according to the state’s fiscal research division. And during that time, McGrady says, "There hasn’t been in my view a huge amount of progress made."

And as a co-chairman of the House budget negotiating team, Representative McGrady is in a position to know. While both sides have agreed on the final size of the budget pie, now they’re negotiating the size of each individual slice, otherwise known as the target. And that’s really important to the House says McGrady. "Because if the target, say for education is set too low from the Houses perspective we almost take off the table the funding of driver's ed or digital learning or some of the initiatives we’ve got on our side of the budget negotiations."
And work on specific funding for programs like drivers education and other fine details of the budget won’t even begin until after those slices of pie are cut by negotiators.