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NC legislature begins review of budget differences

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Six Senate committees convened Tuesday to review differences between the Senate and House's budget proposals.

Tuesday was the first of two days of committee meetings this week to compare proposals a day after the Senate formally rejected the House version of budget adjustments for the fiscal year starting July 1.

During the Senate's Education Committee Meeting this morning, the co-chair of the committee did not hide his displeasure with the House's proposal.

"The main disappointment I have is it doesn't find adequate funding sources for the budget," Sen Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe County) said. "[The House keeps] putting lottery monies up; I think they're looking for an additional over $150,000 in lottery monies. I just don't think you can snap your fingers and come up with that kind of money.

"I think it's irresponsible."

One of the key differences between the proposals comes to teacher pay and how to fund raises. Both chambers agree that teachers in the state deserve raises, but how to fund those raises is a major sticking point.

The Senate is proposing about an 11 percent increase for teachers in exchange for them relinquishing their tenure or "career status." The Senate's proposal also eliminates half of the state's teaching assistant jobs.

On the other hand, the House is proposing about a 5 percent increase partially funded by increased investment in and ultimately sales from the lottery. The House proposal allows the state to double the money it spends on advertising from $17 million to $34 million a year

On Medicaid, the Senate would set aside about $206 million more than the House; but in doing so, it would cut coverage for about 15,000 North Carolinians.

"I think there are a lot of difference, mostly in Medicaid and on the lottery piece," said Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow County). "I think it's going to take some time to work through those pieces, and I don't know how you can get to a final budget until you get those pieces figured out."

Brown, who is a top state Senate budget-writer, said if the two chambers can settle those two issues, he anticipates the budget process to move quickly.

"If not, this thing could drag out a little while," Brown said.

Even if the House and Senate come to an agreement, Gov. Pat McCrory said he'll be watching aspects of the budget because there are "issues" with which he said he disagrees.

"I will be very outspoken about areas where we disagree," McCrory said. "For example, cutting teacher assistants is something that I will not accept."

Later this week, the House and Senate will go to a conference committee to try and finalize a budget. The finalized budget would then go to McCrory.

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Beau Minnick

Beau covers the North Carolina legislature, delivering valuable insights into state politics. More>>

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