GOP lawmakers near NC budget deal; details to remain secret during talks with Gov. Cooper

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Republican legislative leaders say as soon as Monday they could resolve differences among themselves on the state budget and be prepared to share that proposal with Gov. Roy Cooper (D), but that agreement will remain a secret for some time.

The lawmakers say they’re trying a different approach after being at an impasse the last two years when Cooper and the Republicans never could agree on a state funding plan.

“We do want to take that opportunity to see if we can work with the governor. And, hopefully, we can. And, if we can’t then we’ll look at other ways,” said Speaker Tim Moore (R) this week.

In response to questions from Rep. Abe Jones (D-Wake), Moore acknowledged that initially once the Republicans have their proposal it won’t even be shared with all members of the General Assembly.

“We’ve reached this agreement with the governor to try to allow some confidentiality so there can be some very frank conversations,” Moore said.

Cooper said this week there’s not a set date by which he wants to sign off on a budget plan and acknowledged it’s uncertain how the process will play out.

“This will be a unique situation. It’s something that hasn’t happened before. So, it’s hard to predict what will happen,” he said.

The Republicans say they hope that by going to Cooper first before revealing their plan to the public it may increase the likelihood that the two sides actually resolve their differences.

If they can’t, they still intend to make the budget plan public and move forward with a vote to see if enough Democrats will join them that they could override a veto by Cooper.

While Moore said he’s optimistic the House would have the votes to do that, the House has not attempted this year to override Cooper’s veto of any other bills.

“We want to work with the executive branch to see if we can come up with something,” Moore said.

While not revealing specifics, he said Republicans have agreed on a tax cut package that would impact individuals and businesses. He said they had not yet resolved differences over how much of a pay raise to give state workers.

He said they would be meeting over the weekend with the goal of reaching a resolution by the beginning of next week.

The budget plan Republicans are working on is for a two-year period that began July 1. The state government does not shut down when there’s no budget plan adopted. Instead, it keeps operating at the funding level approved in the previous year’s budget.

Cooper has been pushing for raises for teachers to be as much as 10 percent over two years. He’s also raised concerns about tax cut proposals when schools have identified billions of dollars in needs in the next five years.

The state is in the unusual situation of having billions of dollars from federal stimulus programs to spend while also anticipating a $6.5 billion surplus in the next two years.

Earlier this year, Republican legislative leaders decided they did not want spending in the current fiscal year to exceed $25.7 billion, which would be a 3.45 percent increase in spending. Next year, they don’t want spending to exceed $26.7 billion, an increase of 3.65 percent.

Cooper proposed spending $27.3 billion in the first year and $28.7 billion in the second.

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