RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Republican leaders in the General Assembly say although they’ve made progress on trying to reach an agreement on the state budget, September could come and go with no resolution.
The fiscal year began July 1, but leaders of the House and Senate are still trying to work out disagreements with each other about key issues such as how much to cut taxes and how much to pay state workers before taking a proposal to Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to see if he’d sign it.
“We’re going to try in earnest to get a deal with the governor to get a budget passed,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R).
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said he doubts the budget will be finalized this month.
“We are not making the kind of progress I would like to see,” he said recently.
The Senate proposed deeper tax cuts than the House, wanting to eventually lower the personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 3.99 percent and phase out the corporate income tax. The House proposed higher raises than the Senate for state workers, proposing to give most of them 5-percent raises on average over two years. The House also wanted to put about $1.5 billion more than the Senate toward capital projects.
“We’re still negotiating right now. There’s a little distance between us. But, I would say we’re closer today than we were last week,” Moore said.
Republicans also included various policy changes in their budget proposals that drew criticism from Democrats. Some of those include: limiting the governor’s emergency authority, blocking Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein from being able to enter into certain lawsuits, and requiring teachers to post lesson plans and other learning materials online so the public could scrutinize them and potentially lodge complaints about them.
The Republican legislature and Cooper never reached an agreement two years ago on a budget, with teacher pay and Medicaid expansion being the key sticking points.
“They’re hopefully going to come to some kind of agreement and then begin negotiations with us. And, I look forward to that. I hope it can come as quickly as possible,” Cooper said. “The good thing is we have an unprecedented amount of resources here.”
Cooper called the process “more complex” given the billions of dollars that have flowed to the state from the federal government through recent stimulus programs and the $6.5 billion surplus the state is projected to have in the next two years.
“We need to take whatever time we need to make the transformational changes that are going to be so important to this state,” he said. “All of those things can be done with this amount of money we have both from the federal level and increased state tax revenue.”