Raleigh, N.C. — Senior North Carolina lawmakers say they have reached a tentative deal on a budget for the fiscal year that began more than 70 days ago.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, emerged from a small conference room shortly after 7 p.m. Friday to say that all but the smallest details have been agreed to on what is expected to be a $21.75 billion spending plan.
"Our plan is to have a budget that we unveil the first part of next week," Moore said, adding that he and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger had agreed not to release details of the plan until rank-and-file members were filled in on the agreement.
However, later in the evening, Berger and Moore appeared at odds over one key piece of the legislation – whether changes to taxes will be included.
Assuming a deal is final, members of the legislature are likely to get their first comprehensive look on Monday, Moore, R-Cleveland, said. A temporary state spending measure expires on Sept. 18. Although the Senate could vote almost immediately on any package, rules governing the House require that any spending deal be public for at least three days before an official vote. That would mean the first House vote would be Thursday.
The bill will likely require votes on two separate days in both chambers.
Leaders in both houses declined to give specifics. At least one major item still appeared to be a matter of dispute Friday night. Moore said that the deal doesn't include a set of tax provisions, which the House and the Senate had aimed to include as part of the final budget.
"At this juncture, it appears it's going to be just the spending bill at this point," Moore said as Brown looked on. "Work does continue on the tax piece."
Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said Friday that the tax provisions were still being negotiated even as the budget deal was announced.
Later in the evening, Berger, R-Rockingham, called WRAL News to say that a tax deal would need to be part of any final budget deal.
"Our position is it will be part of the budget," Berger said. "It's the last piece that we've been negotiating."
Gov. Pat McCrory, the House and the Senate all drafted their own budget proposals well in advance of the start of the July 1 fiscal year. But different ideas about how to lower taxes, fund schools and address other policy matters led to a protracted standoff and a series of temporary spending measures. It has been only in the past two weeks that palpable progress toward a resolution has been apparent.
To reach a compromise deal – a conference report in legislative parlance – lawmakers have retreated behind closed doors in a series of often unannounced meetings. When a final budget bill does emerge, members of the House and the Senate will have to vote either to accept or reject the deal. No amendments are allowed on conference reports.
In a news release, Moore and Berger addressed the fact that it will take a General Assembly in which both chambers are controlled by Republicans 11 extra weeks to send a spending bill to the governor.
“We certainly understand that this has been a long and hard process, but our diverse and growing State needs a well-crafted, conservative budget to ensure a successful future,” Moore said. “I feel that Senator Berger and I were able to reach good compromise on a number of issues that are important to our State. I look forward to reviewing the final Conference Report with my House colleagues this weekend and Monday and then setting a vote for this upcoming week.”
In the same release, Berger said, “I am grateful to Speaker Moore and members of the Senate and House for their willingness to compromise and their patience and perseverance in reaching this tentative agreement."