Raleigh, N.C. — With just a week left before their second extended deadline, state lawmakers appear no closer to reaching agreement on their $21.74 billion budget plan.
House and Senate leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory announced last Tuesday they had finally agreed on the size of the budget – a crucial first step in the process. But as of Monday, they hadn’t yet agreed on the spending targets for the various areas of state government, such as education or health and human services.
The budget, due by law July 1, is already 55 days overdue as of Monday. Lawmakers first gave themselves a deadline extension of 45 days. When there was no agreement, they passed a second continuing resolution for an additional 16 days, pushing back the deadline to Aug. 31.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the Senate's lead budget negotiator, said Monday that lawmakers will need another extension.
“I don’t think it’s humanly possible it can happen before the 31st, but we can really get down the road and get the budget moving,” Apodaca told reporters. “We should know more within the next 24 hours.
“We’re working diligently. We have been here quite a bit over the last four or five days,” he said, although he also said there were no “full-force” negotiations over the past weekend.
Apodaca wouldn’t offer a potential length for the next continuing resolution, but House chief negotiator Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said it could go through Sept. 4 or longer if needed.
Dollar said the two sides have not yet reached agreement on raises for veteran teachers or state employees but said the agreed-upon overall spending target rules out the House’s proposed across-the-board 2 percent raise for all teachers and state employees.
“There will be some compensation increase,” Dollar said. “Now, it’s a matter of looking at what options are available within the amount of money there.”
He also reiterated the House’s commitment to giving school districts the opportunity to keep teaching assistants in classrooms, especially in lower grades.
In the meantime, the meter for the extended session is running.
Legislative officials estimate the cost of a day of session is around $42,000. Lawmakers have held 27 legislative session days since the end of the fiscal year June 30. That adds up to $1.13 million as of Monday.
That figure is likely to rise substantially given that lawmakers still haven’t reached agreement on Medicaid reform, economic incentives, the governor’s bond package or a proposal to overhaul the distribution of local sales tax revenue.