Local News

State Lawmakers Pass Budget Before Fiscal Year Begins

Posted Updated

RALEIGH — For the first time in 20 years, lawmakers actually finished the budget before the new fiscal year started, and the spending plan concentrates oneducation.

North Carolina lawmakersagreed on the$13.5 billion budgeta day ahead of time, and they could not have been happier. Agencies that depend on state funds will not be left in the lurch.

The highlight of the budget is a half-billion dollars for the public school system, public school teachers and community colleges.

Republicans wonder about some of the hard decisions left behind to meet the budget deadline.

Among the items still on the table that lawmakers are debating include how to spend the state's initial installments of thenational tobacco settlementand if the state should float $3 billion of bonds to pay for construction and renovations for theUNC Systemandcommunity colleges.

The bond proposal has passed theSenate, butHouseRepublicans may put up a fight. Many want the public to vote on the bonds, instead of lawmakers.

The passing of the 1999-2000 budget is the first time in 20 years that a budget has been passed before July 1, the beginning of the state's fiscal year.

"It was a good budget," saysHouse Speaker Jim Black. "We had a good vote when we passed theHouse version, and when we went to the Senate, there were not that manychanges."

"I just think it's such a good budget," Black says, "it's kind of hard to vote against the conference report."

Black believes citizens will be pleased by the money in the budget for teacher pay and the community college system.