After an 8 1/2 hour debate covering 22 amendments, the state House has okayed a $20.3 B spending plan for the coming fiscal year.
The final vote was 73-46, with five Democrats joining the GOP majority. That's a veto-proof vote, and a powerful message to Senate lawmakers who will take their turn next at adjusting the second year of the two-year budget.
The debate, punctuated by a break to attend dinner receptions funded by special interests, varied from the genteel to the absurd. Democrats waxed poetic to a half-empty chamber, while Rep. Bill Cook (R-Beaufort) delivered remarks largely consisting of laughing at Democrats before being called out by House Speaker Thom Tillis.
The two hottest topics of the night were funding for Planned Parenthood, carefully zeroed out by House budget writers, and the closure of one of the state's juvenile detention centers, located in Edgecombe County. Several amendments and hours of debate didn't change either.
The five Democrats who voted for the budget tonight were the same "Party of Five" that helped the GOP overturn Perdue's budget veto in 2011: Brisson, Crawford, Hill, Owens, and Spear. Of those five, only Brisson is up for re-election this fall. Hill, Owens, and Spear opted not to run again, while Crawford lost his primary to fellow Democrat Winkie Wilkins after the two were double-bunked in the new GOP voting maps.
The measure now moves to the Senate, where leaders have said they expect to make some major changes to the House plan.
Senate Leader Phil Berger's Education Reform package, S795, is likely to top that list. Berger has made the measure a top priority, but the House spending plan didn't include any funding for it.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill next week.
The deadline for the budget is June 30th.