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Fiscal Year Starts Without State Budget Agreement

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State budget writers went home Wednesday night without coming to a budget agreement to start the fiscal year, which began Thursday.

The state will operate under the current two-year budget until an agreement is reached.

House and Senate negotiators were at the bargaining table in Raleigh Wednesday trying to come up with a budget agreement they all can live with.

The question was: Could they get it done before the long holiday weekend?

Behind closed doors at the Legislature, deals were being made.

"We're forging ahead," said Rep. Wilma Sherrill, R-Buncombe County.

House and Senate budget writers called on each other to compromise on budget adjustments.

"I feel like we're making progress," Sherrill said. "We're certainly working hard, and it seems that we're getting closer -- maybe real close."

Differences in two key areas appeared close to being worked out.

Regarding education, negotiators said they accepted several proposals from the House. One appropriates $9 million for the governor's More at Four preschool program, instead of the Senate's $2 million.

Regarding Human Services, it was a win for the Senate side. Budget writers agreed to increase spending on child-care subsidies by $8 million instead of $2 million.

"That was a major issue for me," said Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg County. "Because, for working families, they've got to have some assistance, so this is important."

Despite progress on several fronts, House leaders cautioned against rushing to beat this week's deadline to get it done.

"It's more important to get it done right than it is to get it done fast," House Co-Speaker Jim Black said. "But we'd like to accomplish both, and we're still working toward that."

House leaders hope to have the session wrapped up by the end of this week.


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