House gives tentative OK to $21.1B budget

Posted June 12, 2014

— After many hours of sometimes passionate debate, the state House approved its version of Senate Bill 744, the 2014-15 budget, on Thursday night. 

House Republican leaders say the $21.1 billion budget will help the state continue its recovery by investing in education and economic development.

"We have traveled a long and challenging road since 2009," when the recession began, said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, senior House budget writer. "Today’s budget is sound, it is responsible and it is focused on our highest priorities."

Those priorities, leaders said, include an average 5 percent raise for teachers, a $1,000 raise and extra time off for state workers and additional funding for Medicaid reform.

Democrats praised the House plan as better than the Senate version, but most didn't vote for it.

Many voiced objections to the plan to boost lottery advertising to increase sales to pay for most of the teacher salary increase, including Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, who voted against the lottery back in 2005. 

"This House is gambling that the money will there so that the 5 percent can be provided," Luebke said.

Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said he, too, voted against the lottery in 2005 because he was concerned about addiction to gambling. 

“What I didn’t expect at the time is that the people who would get addicted to gambling were the people in this room,” Martin said. “We liked the first hit of it so much we decided to double down.”

Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, said he didn't like the lottery either but insisted lottery officials had assured him the plan would raise the needed $106 million.

"Folks, either you’re in the gambling business, or you're not. This state’s been in the business for about 10 years," Holloway said. "We need it, we need to spend it. We are dependent on those dollars whether we like it or not." 

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said lawmakers could have done more to correct deep cuts made to education and other state services in recent years but "chose not to" raise revenue to do it.

“Is that really a vision for the state, that we inflict no more damage?" Glazier asked. "Is that really the best we can do?”

Dollar criticized Democrats for not "getting in the game" to help write the spending plan, to which Rep. Duane Hall, D-Wake, retorted, "You won't let us play."  

The final vote was 81-36, with eight Democrats voting for the GOP plan and one Republican voting against it. 

The measure will receive its second of two required votes in a session set for 8:30 a.m. Friday. It then goes to the Senate, which could choose to accept the changes or, more likely, send it to a conference committee where members of the two chambers work out the differences between their respective proposals. 

it's likely to be a difficult process. No two budget bills have been so far apart in the last decade.


Throughout the floor debate, lawmakers offered a series of 37 amendments to the legislation. Most did not succeed in making major changes. 

Suspected Jones County puppy mill raided House includes puppy mill language in budget SBI:  Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, ran an amendment to keep the State Bureau of Investigation under the control of the Attorney General's Office. Republican leaders used a parliamentary maneuver to kill the proposal without a vote.  

Rep. Robert Reives, D-Lee, tried another amendment that would have left the Public Corruption section of the SBI under the Attorney General's Office, arguing that it would help maintain public confidence in the impartiality of investigations.

But Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, opposed it, and it failed 47-69.

"What we’re talking about is keeping politics out of the SBI," Daughtry said. "Taking the corruption unit and leaving it under the AG, believing that he is not political, is a fallacy."

EITC:  Democrats tried once again to reinstate the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit for working low-income people. Rep. Yvonne Holley, D-Wake, proposed to give corporations a smaller tax cut next year, lowering the rate to 5.6 percent instead of 5 percent and using the additional money to restart the tax credit program, which expired last year. 

Holley said the credit, which averages about $115, helps working people struggling to make ends meet. But Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, and other Republicans said the program is flawed and rife with fraud.

Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, said the state paid an estimated $28 million in fake EITC claims in 2012. Holley countered that low-income workers shouldn't be punished for others' crimes.

"We got banks that stole millions of dollars in fraud. When have we ever stopped a bank?" she said.

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said the credit is obsolete in the wake of last year's GOP tax reforms.

"We’ve lowered taxes across the board in this state. This is no longer needed, my friends,"  Moore said.

But Luebke said the reforms have helped the wealthy far more than the poor.

"The 20,000 filers who are millionaires will have a tax break this year of $310 million," he said. "This amendment simply asks you to help 1 million tax filers to the tune of $100 million. It is only fair to help the working poor and working families."

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, accused Democrats of seeking to "go back to the days of class warfare" and said he doubted the state credit would lift anyone out of poverty.

"We are doing what we can to raise up every person in the state," Lewis said. "Much more has been returned to that same taxpayer in the changes we have made."

The amendment failed 41-73. 

Voucher money: Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, ran an amendment to take away the $10 million set aside for the state's new "Opportunity Scholarship" private school voucher program, using the money instead to reduce class sizes in primary grades.  

Goodman and Glazier argued the voucher program violates the state constitution, an argument the program's architect, Rep. Skip Stam, R-Wake, insisted was wrong. 

The amendment elicited anger from Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, who supports the voucher program. He said his fellow Democrats didn't make those arguments when lawmakers approved vouchers for children with disabilities.

"There is nothing unconstitutional about giving poor and minority children the same opportunity as other children," Brandon said. "Any time there’s something in this chamber for poor and minority kids, we have a problem." 

Rep. Ed Hanes, D-Forsyth, compared the push for vouchers to the civil rights movement, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in an impassioned speech. The amendment failed 43-71. 

Both Brandon and Hanes ended up voting for the final budget plan. 

Film tax credit: After a defeat in the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, tried again to restore incentives for film productions in North Carolina.

Davis proposed turning the program into a grant through the Department of Commerce, rather than a tax credit. The amendment supplies only $5 in funding, but Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, said that would change in final budget talks with the Senate. Adding it to the House plan, she said, "puts the program on the table for negotiations in the conference process."

Davis and Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, said they would prefer to extend the existing credit instead but didn't have the votes to pass it.

"I’ll go along with whatever we can get. We’ll take half a loaf," Iler said. "(Losing) 4,200 jobs is like closing a Pillowtex (textile plant) or another industry and sending them to Georgia. All that’s moving out of state if we don’t do something reasonable here." 

"Let's keep the ball rolling," added Rep. Becky Carney, R-Mecklenburg.

The amendment passed 90-26.


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  • Grand Union Jun 13, 2014

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    What? Where in any of my comments did I ever suggest I dislike let alone hate the US or my home State, NC?
    If I hate anything it what the Tea Party is doing to my Country and State. Much as it might surprise you, the Tea Party is not the State or the country no matter how much they claim to be.

  • disgusted2010 Jun 13, 2014

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    SO you don't just hate the US, you hate NC too. Perhaps one of those western european utopias you always hold up as an example has a place for you.

  • disgusted2010 Jun 13, 2014

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    Maybe you should ask Jim Hunt, he's the one who elevated the teachers above us mere mortals.

  • disgusted2010 Jun 13, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Don't you understand, only teachers count. You can thank Jim, governor for life, Hunt for that.

  • brandy213122 Jun 13, 2014

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    AMEN To that!!! I guess DHHS, DOT, DPS, DOC, Dept. of Justice, etc, needed to develop a better fan base. And yes, I work for one of these agencies and my husband will hopefully be working another one of these agencies (if the hiring freeze is ever lifted).

  • brandy213122 Jun 13, 2014

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    I agree. I'm a state employee and I'm willing to bet that I won't see a raise. My husband is still waiting for a salary to be offered by another state job but until these "representatives of the people" finalize a budget, he is waiting going on month 4 for employment. Teachers aren't the only employees of the state who are suffering and aren't the only ones who also have hectic jobs. They are the only ones with a HUGE fanbase. I have respect for teachers but what about the Highway Patrol Officers (state employees), roadside technicians (state employees) and other fields where they have stressful jobs, pay isn't great, and are a state employee? Are they not important either? You like your roads to be safe and the HP to travel them to make sure they stay safe, don't you?

  • miseem Jun 13, 2014

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    And let's see. Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. If I recall from the math I got from those inept public school teachers, that was after 2008. In other words, the only input Obama could have had on actions is 2008 was his single vote as a senator.

  • Grand Union Jun 13, 2014

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    Until the W recession they paid them above the nations average, they were decreasing class sizes and increasing number of teachers assistants.

    Since the Tea Party GOP gained power in 2010 its been all downhill.

  • faeriegurl65 Jun 13, 2014

    Where's my 5%.... I've been a state employee for sixteen years. Not a teacher for only 3 or 4, but a dedicated hard working employee for public service in the state government. They want to give the rest of state employees not even half of what they are giving teachers because why? We don't directly impact children's lives by providing them education. What about vaccinations? Health Care Services? Clean Water & Air? Why are teachers considered any more of a valuable state employee than the rest of the workforce?? This is a sure way to decrease the already low morale; make your employees feel even less valued by not compensating them on equal grounds.

  • Grand Union Jun 13, 2014

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    The recession actually started in 2007........before Obama was even a Candidate. We were in freefall by the end of 2008. losing 100s of thousands of jobs every month.
    I suppose the GOP attempts to rewrite history might work with their base who likely are already having problems with their memories......