Raleigh, N.C. — Although the General Assembly held a rare Friday session to give House and Senate negotiators more time to hammer out a budget compromise, Gov. Pat McCrory said he isn't optimistic the two chambers can agree on a spending plan that he can support.
The new fiscal year began July 1, but the House and the Senate remain far apart on raises for teachers, funding teaching assistants and Medicaid spending. McCrory has in recent weeks thrown his support behind House positions, threatening to veto a budget that follows the Senate blueprint of cutting teaching assistants and Medicaid rolls to finance a larger pay increase for teachers.
The governor met Wednesday with Senate Republicans to stake out their respective positions. Senators described the meeting as a "good dialogue" but said there was no change in anyone's position.
McCrory sat down Friday morning with House Republicans to hold a similar powwow on spending priorities, but later in the day, he didn't sound confident about a budget deal.
"I've clearly communicated my issues and concerns, and I'll stand by those issues and concerns," he said. "If the budget doesn't address my issues and concerns, I'll definitely consider vetoing the budget."
He said his staff would pore over any budget lawmakers send him to ensure there's nothing hidden well inside the spending plan that doesn't pass muster with him.
"I know when you have late-night negotiations, it’s very easy to take things off the bottom line somewhere, and most likely that somewhere is within the operations of state government I’m responsible for," he said. "Not only is this debate about policy and budget, but I have to operate the government long after the legislators leave, and if there are issues of operations that are impacted, I’m going to find out before they leave or I’ll bring them back."
McCrory also is weighing a veto of a charter schools bill that lawmakers sent to him on Friday.
The bill would hide from public disclosure the names and salaries of employees of for-profit firms hired to operate charter schools. Charter schools are taxpayer funded, and most have to disclose the names and salaries of staff and board members.
The governor said he has had three lawyers review the bill but hasn't gotten any consensus on whether legislation meets the government transparency standards he has spelled out for state government.
"I've clearly stated I want clear transparency, and the way the bill is written, I'm not sure of the interpretation," he said, adding that he'll wait to get a solid legal opinion before acting on the bill.