Raleigh, N.C. — As the stalemate over the state budget adjustment drags on with little progress, House leaders say they're frustrated, but not yet ready to give up.
Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, one of the House's budget chairmen, said the House privately sent the Senate an offer last Thursday.
Burr said the offer did not include the cuts to Medicaid eligibility or teaching assistants that Senate leaders insist are necessary to pay for teacher raises. Instead, he said, it would have given school districts the option to use teaching assistant funding for teacher pay raises beyond the 6 percent in the House plan, if that's what the district chooses to do.
"We don't have to give up the TAs. We can leave it up to the locals, which I think is a good compromise," Burr said. "We're trying to find some way to meet [the Senate] on some of the pay issues."
That proposal was floated by House Speaker Thom Tillis in a budget hearing last week. It has support from Gov. Pat McCrory as well.
But Senate leaders have not been receptive.
Asked Monday whether the House had made a counteroffer, Shelly Carver, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, said, "The Senate conferees are still waiting for a public response from the House."
Because there's a two-year budget already in place, House and Senate members could simply give up on negotiations and let the current budget stand without adjustments, allowing the governor to manage it. However, that would mean no raises for teachers and state employees.
Burr says House leaders aren't ready to give up yet, although he said he's heard some members discussing it.
"I think folks want a budget," he said. "Yes, we have a two-year budget, but there are certain issues where we've made commitments to address needs, such as the pay raises and others.
"I think there's still room to iron out those differences and get us there," he said. "It's a very slow process at this point but something I think we're still committed to doing."
Speaker Pro Tem Skip Stam, R-Wake, agreed.
"We would like a budget. There's a huge amount in agreement. There's hundreds of provisions that are agreed to," Stam said. "But the House, in my opinion, is not going to throw Alzheimers' patients out of rest homes with no state support. We're not going to do things like that. So that's where we're at."
And if the Senate doesn't change its position?
"We haven't decided where we'll go from here if we feel like we can't get anything worked out," Burr said. "We haven't really discussed it yet."