Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers gave Gov. Pat McCrory's 2014-15 budget proposal a polite reception Thursday, calling it "a good start" for their own budget process.
Budget Director Art Pope gave members of the General Assembly an overview of McCrory's $21 billion spending proposal, which mainly represents an adjustment of the two-year budget passed in 2013.
After going over this year's spending plan, Pope gave a preview of one item McCrory would likely recommend in the 2015-16 budget. He noted that this year's budget puts only $50 million into repairs and renovation, when the state has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of needs.
"I think next year will be the time the governor will have a 25-year capital plan," Pope said.
Members of the House and Senate appropriations committees listened to Pope for more than two hours. At the end of the presentation, a few Democrats asked questions, but Republicans were largely silent.
"We know we are in the budget process," said Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake.
While he called McCrory's proposal "a great start," Murry said that lawmakers would be coming up with their own plan.
McCrory is projecting that the state's Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and disabled will cost more than anticipated, but Pope insisted the state would be able to cover the overspending with current-year cost savings and reserves.
Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said lawmakers were somewhat skeptical of those numbers. McCrory included a $50 million reserve in his budget in case his Medicaid estimates are off. Brown said Senators would likely take a different approach.
"I'm not sure we agree with a reserve," Brown said. "I think we'd rather get it right on the front end."
Senators will have first crack at the legislative budget this year. Brown said that the Senate would likely begin rolling out its version in the next two or three weeks. Then the House will take its turn writing a budget. Those two documents will then be merged into a final deal that returns to McCrory for his signature.
Virtually all lawmakers agree that McCrory's focus on providing raises for teachers and state employees was an idea that would carry through to the end.
"We have money for educators because the economy is growing," Murry said.