Raleigh, N.C. — The House budget subcommittees are putting together wish-lists for the "big chairs" like Rep. Harold Brubaker and others who head the full budget writing committee.
In the Education subcommittee this morning, lawmakers went over a list of items that they would like to provide but cost more than the big chairs have given them to spend. The biggest line items in education had to do with erasing not only a planned $74 million increase to school system discretionary cuts but rolling back $259.3 million "flex cuts" school systems would have had to hand back to the state this year.
Though it seems somewhat backward, that cut to a cut would actually give school systems more money. In this case the erasing $259.3 million in flex cuts would offset the loss of federal EduJobs money which expires in October. The net effect would be to give school systems the same total amount of funding this year as they had this year, although more of that total would be coming from the state and less from the federal government.
But the big question is this: where will that $259.3 million come from. Right now, the K-12 education budget has $7.4 billion in "availability," the amount of money budget writers have to distribute over all K-12 programs. But cutting the flex cut would put the education subcommittee over that $7.4 billion target to the tune of $261.2 million.
"At this point we don't have the ($259.3 million) from the big chairs to do this adjustment," said Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, a committee co-chairman.
In other words, the education subcommittee hasn't been given the money it wants.
"I am more than a little hopeful," Blackwell said as he left his committee meeting this morning. Extra funding could come from unspent money -- such as unspent merit pay funding or money left over in the state's severance reserve -- or revenue growth could provide extra recurring revenue.
But he doesn't know any of that for certain. Sometime in the next week, he said, the co-chairs of the Education subcommittee would recommend a budget to their members. Blackwell said he hoped that budget would include extra availability, but he wouldn't commit to it. He added that he was unsure when that recommended budget would be ready.
Other budget subcommittees seem to be in the same boat as they wait to see if their availability will be increase before the first full draft of the House budget rolls out.