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Resolution of state budget amendments doubtful to happen soon, if ever

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(The Center Square) – Amendments to the second year of the North Carolina budget were finalized in action late Monday evening by the Senate, and there’s no indication resolution of differences will happen soon.

Leaders in both chambers – Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and Republican House Speaker Tim Moore – have signaled no intent to hear and begin work on their respective colleagues’ proposals. They have indicated lawmakers may go home at the end of this week without further work on it.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s adjustments had even more distance in differences.

If enacted, Cooper would have the state operating beginning Monday on a $34.7 billion plan, the House $31.7 billion, and the Senate $31.4 billion. The governor got his wish for Medicaid expansion last fall by allowing the biennial spending plan – it is $30.9 billion in fiscal year 2025 – to become law without his signature.

The developments mean the state stays in the plan enacted last fall; lawmakers could agree to a plan after Monday’s beginning of the new fiscal year and retroactively enact it; and different elements of the spending plans could be enacted via other directed legislation. There was never a chance of government shutdown because the spending plan is for two years; the proposals are adjustments.

There is gubernatorial opposition of key provisions to which both chambers were in agreement. Republican majorities wish to eliminate the waiting list of about 55,000 for Opportunity Scholarships and allocated $487 million to do so. There’s no family income limits or restrictions on which K-12 schools – traditional public, charter or private – students and their families can choose.

Lawmakers allocated about $100 million in the two-year budget.

Federal child care center grants that expire next month were also covered by an allocation of about $135 million in the amendments from the Senate and House.

Monday night, senators did not allow Democratic amendment proposals to move forward. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue of Wake County said, “The Republican supermajority’s refusal to consider any of our amendments is a clear indication of their unwillingness to invest in the future of our state.”

While the two chambers did have agreement on education for school choice, and in the budget last fall made teacher and state employee raises a reality, the latter was a key difference in the adjustments. The House wanted to give larger raises.

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