@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Tensions surface over House spending plan

Posted May 30

This is the N.C. Legislative Building as seen on Feb. 2, 2015 at 6 p.m.

— A meeting of the House Pensions and Retirement Committee on Tuesday added to growing evidence that House Republicans may not yet have a solid agreement on their budget plan.

So far, the legislation has stayed on the schedule laid out by Speaker Tim Moore last week – but only in parts. Even though the measure is due for its first chamber vote in 48 hours, House GOP leaders have not yet unveiled their proposals for pay raises for teachers and state employees or what for what they plan to put in reserve.

House leaders canceled a news conference about the budget on Tuesday. Chief budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said it will now likely take place Thursday. Also, House leaders added a list of bills to the House calendar for Tuesday afternoon in direct opposition to their plans announced last week, when they said budget work would likely mean no recorded votes.

The House Finance Committee on Tuesday morning was limited to 65 minutes, with Chairman Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, trying to avoid amendments, while disagreement surfaced between Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, and Dollar over spending decisions by senior budget writers, known as "big chairs," that diverge from the wishes of policy committees.

In the Pensions and Retirement Committee, the same tension surfaced.

Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, wanted to propose an amendment that would have changed the proposed one-time bonus of 1.6 percent for state retirees to a 2 percent recurring increase. The change would have increased the cost to the budget from about $76 million in one-time money to closer to $95 million in recurring funds, along with added outlays from the Highway Trust Fund as well as added liability to the retirement fund in coming years.

"I don’t believe I’m going to allow any amendments in this committee," responded Chairman Rep. Allen McNeill, R-Randolph.

"Why?" asked Michaux.

McNeill didn't answer.

Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, also questioned the one-time bonus, which would be an extra $320 for a retiree with a $20,000 pension, probably to be mailed out in October, according to committee staff. Their monthly benefits would not change.

"This is what the big chairs decided we were going to do?" Blust asked McNeill.

"That is my understanding, Rep. Blust," McNeill responded.

"Why are we meeting?" Michaux asked.

The voice vote sounded close, but McNeill denied a call for a show of hands and pronounced the plan approved.

The budget bill is next scheduled to appear in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday morning. Dollar told the House Tuesday afternoon that the House's proposed raises for teachers and state employees will not be available until they're submitted as an amendment at that meeting.

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