Local News

Black: Budget Agreement Won't Happen This Week

Posted August 3, 2005

— Legislative leaders said Wednesday they do not expect to reach a budget agreement this week, requiring them to again extend a temporary spending measure to keep state government operating.

"It's not going to be done by Friday," said House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg.

Budget negotiators have stalled over a number of unsettled issues for days and even weeks, including pay raises for state employees and a proposed cigarette tax increase.

In recent days, differences over splitting up profits from a proposed lottery and giving tuition autonomy to some University of North Carolina campuses also have surfaced.

Black and Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, had said a deal needed to be reached by Wednesday night to meet the deadline.

Black said he did not know how long the next stopgap spending measure would last, but he suggested going until late next week may give negotiators enough time.

Senate negotiators said they were still willing to work through the weekend, but acknowledged a lot of unresolved differences over the two-year spending plan remain. The budget was supposed to be in place July 1.

Democrats, who control both chambers, have approved two temporary spending measures and accelerated negotiations over the past week or so hoping to avoid a third.

"There are about 25 things that keep coming up," said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.

House Minority Whip Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, said he will not vote for the continuing resolution, saying Democrats have had plenty of time to write a budget.

"I think it's high time that they resolve this and stop nitpicking over which tax they are going to raise," Gillespie said.

Basnight and other Senate Democrats appear to be insisting the budget include a provision that would allow North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill to set a portion of their tuition rate. The UNC Board of Governors currently sets the rate for all of the state's 16 public universities.

House Democrats do not feel comfortable with the idea, but Black said he understands campus leaders' desire for more money to pay professors tempted by higher salaries at other schools.

The tuition provision surfaced after the UNC Board of Governors said they would freeze campus tuition this fall.

At least one issue, however, appears to have been resolved. Negotiators agreed to include lottery provisions in the budget, which leaves some opponents frustrated.

I'm really disappointed the provisions are in the budget and not being subject to a straight up or down vote," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford. "That's really troubling to me, but I don't think I can vote against a budget for the schools and health care."

The provisions being discussed would lift the House restriction on advertising for a lottery. The lottery bill itself would still need to be approved by lawmakers.

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