NC Capitol

NC Capitol

Democrats: GOP fears over teacher raise, gun votes behind budget maneuver

Posted May 23, 2018 6:55 p.m. EDT
Updated May 23, 2018 10:42 p.m. EDT

— A week after thousands of teachers packed downtown Raleigh and the Legislative Building demanding more money for public education, Republican budget-writers are precluding changes to their spending plan.

Unlike years past, when lawmakers could propose changes to the state budget in committees or on the floor of the House or the Senate, Republican legislative leaders are writing the 2018-19 budget behind closed doors and using a parliamentary move to block any changes to it.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, the senior budget writer in the House, said Wednesday that everyone had their chance for input in the budget last year, when lawmakers adopted a two-year spending plan.

"Most of the budgeting was done for the second year last year in the budget. It was obviously fully debated, fully discussed, fully amended," Dollar said.

But Democrats said a lot has happened in the past year, including several mass school shootings and last week's teacher march. Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said people have a right to ask for changes in response.

"This is the most abusive process I have ever seen. We are talking about how we're going to spend several billion dollars of taxpayer money and yet cutting off the input of the taxpayers," Martin said.

He said he believes GOP leaders are banning amendments because Democrats will propose to freeze a tax cut for corporations so teachers can get bigger raises.

Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, said Republicans also don't want to have to vote on Democratic gun control proposals, such as a "red flag law" that would allow authorities to take guns from people the courts deem to be a threat to themselves or others.

"We would love to partner and find a bipartisan way to move forward with this bill in the way that other states have on all the same provisions that are in this bill," Meyer said. "If we are not able to do that in this year's legislative session, then we will make this a campaign issue in the fall."

Legislative leaders said they just want to finish the budget quickly and keep the session short.

Dollar said the spending plan will be rolled out early next week, and the up-or-down votes in the House and the Senate should be done by next Friday.

Gov. Roy Cooper would have 10 days to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

The new budget year begins July 1.