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RALEIGH — House and Senate budget negotiators have six more weeks to hammer out a two-year spending plan after reaching an agreement Monday on a temporary state budget.
With a wide difference between House and Senate plans over both spending priorities and policy changes, there was no chance a final deal could be worked out before the fiscal year ends at midnight tonight (Tuesday), and leaders from both chambers settled on a continuing resolution to keep state government operating.
After little debate, the House passed the bill last night by a vote of 107-1.
It heads to the Senate floor this morning (Tuesday). The bill, known as a CR, or a “continuing resolution,” continues funding for state government at current levels until Aug. 14, giving the House and Senate six weeks to bridge a number of policy and spending differences. It is expected to pass, and the chambers will continue to debate the two-year full state budget plan.
The agreement between the House and the Senate on the continuing resolution, announced Monday morning, moves ahead with most budget adjustments that are the same in the House and Senate budget plans, including the elimination of hundreds of unfilled positions across state government.
The bill also provides money for pay increases for new teachers and those with up to four years experience, but bonuses and all other pay increases for state employees remain on hold until a new budget is passed.
In a statement released after the vote, Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, one of the chief budget negotiators and an Appropriations Committee co-chair, said the bill should give local school systems what they need to prepare for the coming year.
“Negotiating some clarity in education funding into this CR was a top priority because most schools are set to open in six weeks. How can school systems hire staff if they don’t know what is going to be funded and at what level?” McGrady said.
Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, one of the few to object to the bill during Monday night’s debate, said she was concerned that tuition adjustments for community colleges colleges had been left out of the plan. Having to make the adjustments later, she said, would add additional costs for the schools.
The temporary deal underlines that tough negotiations lie ahead. While there has been some movement toward a deal on a new structure for Medicaid, the House and Senate remain far apart on tax changes, pay increases for state employees and a reorganization of the state parks system proposed by both Gov. Pat McCrory and the Senate.
McCrory sent legislators a letter on Monday urging they strike a deal within 30 days and outlining a set of priorities. McCrory reiterated his opposition to tax changes proposed by the Senate, including a change in distribution of sales taxes.
The governor also called for support for his proposed transportation bond program, reinstatement of the historic property tax credits and an increase in funding for economic development incentives.