House and Senate Republican leaders shared a podium today to tout a new budget deal they say reduces spending and allows temporary taxes to expire while protecting the classroom.
"This is a great budget for the people of North Carolina," said Senate Leader Phil Berger of the $19.68 B compromise.
Berger said the Senate will send the budget back to the House Thursday. House Speaker Thom Tillis says the House will give the measure final approval no later than early Saturday morning, when they'll send it to Perdue's desk.
The measure was made public just before midnight Monday, and neither Senate Democrats nor the press had hard copies of the new deal till midday Tuesday, just before it was heard in Senate Appropriations. It's due on the Senate floor for a vote at 11:00 am Wednesday.
In the past, when they were in the minority, Republicans complained Democrats gave them insufficient time to vet budget proposals. But in this case, Berger and Tillis said the quick turnaround offered sufficient time for review.
Tillis says it's important to finish the budget as soon as possible because it includes the needed legal change to allow federal jobless benefits to resume for around 50,000 jobless North Carolinians, and because city and county budgets, which depend on the state budget, need to be finalized soon, too.
Republicans also complained about "apocalyptic language" from the budget's Democratic opponents.
Tillis said the new budget deal's bottom line is just a couple of percent less than Perdue had proposed to spend. "The rhetoric doesn't match the math," he said.
"I looked outside this morning, and the sky was not falling," Berger added wryly.
Tillis and Berger also emphasized the deal's "bipartisan support." But as of this afternoon, it wasn't clear how deep that support might actually be.
The five House Democrats who were involved in the negotiations - Crawford, Owens, Hill, Brisson, and Spear - all indicated today they would likely support the deal, which includes funding and/or provisions each of them specifically sought. But few other of the 52 House Democrats are expected to join them, and there's no indication that any of the 20 Senate Dems will support the bill, either.
The "Party of Five" could give the GOP the margin needed to override a potential veto, but Tillis demurred today when asked whether the Democrats would stand with the GOP against Perdue. "I'm hoping the governor will not put us in a position where that's a relevant question."
Watch the unedited press conference at right, and my apologies for the shaky-cam effects in the first minute.