Lawmakers reach bipartisan budget compromise

Posted May 31, 2011

— Republican lawmakers banked Tuesday on a new $19.7 billion budget proposal for next year to bypass long negotiations with Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, a plan that would preserve funds for 13,000 teaching assistant positions while letting temporary taxes expire on time.

The Senate made significant changes to its version released last week of a state government spending plan through mid-2013 as a compromise with House Republicans after negotiating a deal for days. GOP leaders are optimistic they'll attract enough House Democrats to vote for the final product to avoid a potential veto showdown with Perdue.

The Senate is expected to vote on the plan Wednesday and Thursday, with House votes set for Friday and Saturday. If approved, the budget could reach Perdue's desk by Saturday afternoon.

The potential deal would spend $300 million more for public schools than the House budget plan approved earlier this month, according to the budget document. The new version restores funding for 13,000 teaching assistant positions in grades 1-3 that had been eliminated in an earlier Senate plan. The House had eliminated assistants in grades 1-2. The University of North Carolina System also would receive $100 million more than the House budget proposed, but $100 million less than Perdue wanted.

The budget also includes money to hire another 1,100 teachers in grades 1-3, which had been part of the initial Senate budget.

"I’m proud of the willingness of our members to reach across the aisle to craft a bipartisan budget,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. “This compromise will fuel job growth, reform education, cut waste and bureaucracy and avoid a government shutdown. We have met the governor more than halfway, and we encourage her to support the compromise.”

Perdue said in a statement that she still has "enormous concerns" with the revised proposal, but she offered no indication whether she planned to veto it.

Lawmakers reach bipartisan budget compromise Lawmakers reach bipartisan budget compromise

"With regard to education funding, the proposed budget appears to be a charade," she said. "While the Senate claims to protect teaching positions, they are actually forcing local school districts to make substantial layoffs of education personnel to the tune of more than a quarter billion dollars, meaning thousands of teachers and teaching assistants will be cut. It also appears to take a devastating toll on early education and higher education."

House Speaker Thom Tillis said Perdue's rhetoric doesn't match the math in the budget, but the North Carolina Association of Educators estimated the Senate's revised plan would cut 3,400 teachers and 2,200 teacher assistants.

Five House Democrats voted for the House version of the budget four weeks ago, raising hopes among Republicans that they could get at least four of them to support a final budget compromise. Four would be needed to get the three-fifths of the House members necessary in the House to overturn any Perdue veto. The GOP majority in the Senate already is veto-proof.

Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, said he and other House Democrats pushed for more funding to education and the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We thought it'd be harder to work through the process, but it came together very quickly," Crawford said. "We're committed to the budget as it is today."

Jobless generic, unemployment line Budget deal includes jobless benefits extension

Temporary taxes approved by a Democratic-led Legislature in 2009 to close a budget gap would expire on schedule at the end of June under the proposal, meaning the state would lose more than $1.3 billion in revenue. A new small-business tax break would remain in place, but a Senate proposal to cut all three individual income tax brackets by a quarter-percentage point would be shelved.

The extra funds to raise overall public education spending to nearly $11 billion in the compromise largely came from reducing reserves and the coming year's payment for public employee pension funds.

"This bipartisan solution is a big first step toward right-sizing state government,” Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in a statement. “This budget is a job-creating budget that incorporates one of the largest tax cuts in North Carolina history.”

The following provisions also are included in the updated proposal:

  • Jobless benefits would be extended for 20 weeks for people who have exhausted all other unemployment benefits. GOP lawmakers earlier tried to tie an extension to budget cuts in a separate bill, but they said they would now roll the extension in with the overall budget.
  • The elimination of Medicaid services that the federal government doesn't require the state to provide would be scaled back, largely to the level that was proposed in the House budget. The measure would keep in place most adult dental care, podiatry and chiropractic services.
  • The State Bureau of Investigation and its embattled crime laboratory would be kept within the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Roy Cooper. Last week's Senate plan had shifted oversight to the new Department of Public Safety, which would be led by a secretary appointed by the governor.
  • Senate provisions would be retained to prevent regulators in the Departments of Agriculture, Labor and Environment and Natural Resources from issuing rules that are more stringent than the federal government. Environmental activists have complained the change would make it more difficult for the state to protect the state's air and water.
  • The Health and Wellness Trust Fund, which receives 25 percent of the state's share of the national tobacco settlement, would be abolished, and its $32.9 million would be shifted to a state division to continue smoking and obesity prevention programs, among others. Golden LEAF, the Rocky Mount foundation that uses tobacco settlement money on economic development projects, would lose $17.6 million annually for the next two years.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • undefeated Jun 1, 2011

    I want someone/anyone to show some definitive proof that lower taxes equal more jobs. Let's go back to the Clinton federal taxes when all was booming. Anyway, I'll wait for the definitive proof.

  • dlphnwmn8 Jun 1, 2011

    Senator Malcolm Graham appealed to his colleagues again on Wednesday to pass a clean bill extending federal jobless benefits to 46,000 long-term unemployed North Carolinians.
    The Mecklenburg County Democrat told the Senate the federal benefits extension had no place in the state budget bill.
    Senator Tom Apodaca responded that the quickest way for Democrats to “do the right thing” would be to pass the Republican’s budget.
    Sen. Graham said the budget debate could drag out another week or two, increasing the uncertainty and stress on thousands of families.
    Graham’s attempt to pass a clean bill for the long-term unemployed failed along party lines, 19-31. Check out this you tube video where Apodaca clearly states “Let’s vote this down now” And they did. http://youtu.be/LvnGGxrhfw4

  • prbmc49 Jun 1, 2011

    We do have some control in our Votes and you can better beleive that Bev Perdue will never have mine after what she has done to my State, my lost job, my SS and Medicare and my Unemployment benefits.

    I worked in the private sector all my life and I am now 61 years old without a job. All my life I was told if you work hard and try to save by the time you retire you will be able to live comfortably. I have nothing left and who is going to hire me at my age.

    What a rip-off.

  • Rebelyell55 Jun 1, 2011

    They got some right and got some wrong. Still didn't cut enough out. There is still hughes saving out there.

  • ljohnson247 Jun 1, 2011

    We have read the comments and agree with some and disagree with others, but the bottom line is, these elected officials work for you. You voted them into office. If you do not like what they are doing, write them, email them, or call their office and let them know. Let them know the things you would like for them to do. Form groups. Remember it is only a part-time job, their review is up every two years. They work for you, but if you look at things they mainly do things for groups they have a large number of people. You may ask why, one word "VOTES". Look at where the largest amount of money is going. Form those group, do some homework and then vote for the person not the party.

  • Stormy13 Jun 1, 2011

    bablaon: Where do you get your "fact" from? State Employees DO qualify for Social Security when they reach appropriate age. They also draw State Retirement that they have paid 6% of their monthly income in to for all the years they worked for the State. I know from what I speak cause my Dad was a State Employee, and after working for the private sector for over 20+ years, I am also a 15+ yrs. State Employee looking forward to my retirement in a few years. Let me tell everyone so there is no doubt, we State Employees DO pay for our benefits: medical, dental, vision, etc. There is no FREE RIDE as so many of you seem to feel.

  • davidk_at_unc Jun 1, 2011

    "For the 400 millionth time, state employees have 6 percent of their salaries taken for the pension whether they want to partipate or not. They also will be paying premiums in addition to the already hefty family premiums, co-pays and deductibles for health care and have to pay for their own dental and vision care. Try educating yourself before mindlessly repeating "state employees don't have to pay for nothing and live off of my tax dollars." State workers are like anyone else who interviewed for and accepted their positions based on an agreed-upon salary and benefits. They just didn't know that constant scorn from the very public they are trying to serve was part of the deal." -- tropicalgirl


  • aetius476 Jun 1, 2011

    "The measure would keep in place most adult dental care, podiatry and chiropractic services." - why in the world in tight budget times are we paying for Medicaid patients to get these optional services? These are non-critical services most of us must forgoe when funds are tight, yet we pay for Medicaid recipients to enjoy them free of charge. I am all for a safety net for those in dire need. I don't consider chiropractic adjustments and callus removal to be part of that safety net. Pandering to a consituency I guess...

  • babbleon Jun 1, 2011

    NC's high taxes are already holding the state back from generating new jobs, so new taxes are not the answer. ...

    The state was organized in the early 20th century to meet its needs at that time. rand321

    Waitaminnit, taxes are LOWER than they were in the 90s, when businesses did great. Supply side economics has been shown wrong over the last 40 years.

    That said, what restructuring would you like to see?

  • rand321 Jun 1, 2011

    there is only so much money in the budget, whether its allocated to education and taken away from other departments, cuts are going to happen.

    NC's high taxes are already holding the state back from generating new jobs, so new taxes are not the answer. Its not a revenue problem, but a spending problem. Neither democrats nor republicans have addressed the real reasons behind the states ongoing budget woes....that is the need to reogranize state government and its activities versus the local levels.

    The state was organized in the early 20th century to meet its needs at that time. NC is a very different place in 2011 than in 1931! The organization of State government operations needs to reflect those facts.