Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, Feb. 11. Here's what we're following at the state legislature.
Gas tax changes: The Senate is scheduled to debate a bill unveiled Tuesday that would combine a short-term gas tax cut with a long-term gas tax increase and deep cuts to the state Department of Transportation.
Senate leaders insist Senate Bill 20 is a tax cut, but legislative staff project it would bring in an additional $1.2 billion in gas taxes over the next four years by raising the minimum gas tax to 35 cents per gallon, far above the 30.4 cents a gallon to which it was scheduled to drop in July due to falling gas prices.
The bill, a rewrite of an otherwise innocuous tax code bill, made its way through two committees in short order Tuesday and is expected to pass the full Senate on its first of two votes Wednesday afternoon.
Unemployment law changes: At 1 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee will take up new fraud-fighting requirements for the state Division of Employment Security. As of Tuesday night, Senate Bill 15, which came out of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance, would require the division to work with the state's Government Data Analytics Center and other state agencies to crack down on fraud, improper payments and overpayments. The division would also be required to produce detailed quarterly reports on unemployment fraud.
Budget review continues with larger shortfall: As House and Senate budget subcommittees meet again jointly from 8:30 to 10 a.m. to review the current budget, the legislature's top economist has released projections showing the current year budget shortfall will be larger than they thought.
Late Tuesday, Fiscal Research Chief Barry Boardman released a memo to lawmakers estimating a $271 million shortfall for 2014-15 - higher than earlier projections of $200 million. Boardman's memo said the shortfall is largely due to weaker than expected wage growth.
On Thursday, the two chambers' full budget committees will meet jointly to hear the full revenue forecast report, which will have big consequences for spending in the next biennium.
The House: The state House is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. There are no bills on its calendar, and no committee meetings are scheduled aside from the joint budget reviews noted above.
Also of note: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the North Carolina International Auto Expo Show Preview Party at the State Fairgrounds Wednesday evening before heading to the North Carolina State University basketball game against Virginia at PNC Arena in Raleigh. (Go Pack! - eds.)