House gives final OK to nearly $19B budget
The House has approved its spending plan for North Carolina government that's being billed as either an austere budget for 2010 or a plan that leaves the state unprepared for a $3 billion shortfall in 2011.
The House gave preliminary approval Thursday of a nearly $19 billion spending plan by a party-line vote of 62-55. The second and final vote, taken just after midnight, passed 62-48.
"Most of our members wanted to come back at 12:01 (a.m.) rather than come back (later Friday)," House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman said. "Once you get a budget on the floor and you go through debate, there's no need to wait extra days."
The plan tries to preserve more public school jobs and requires universities to find additional cuts. Holliman, D-Davidson, said he believes all lawmakers can support the plan because it doesn't contain new taxes.
"We're having to find places to cut, and no one's exempt from those cuts," he said.
House Republicans said, however, that the budget doesn't prepare North Carolina for next year's loss of more than $1 billion in federal stimulus funds and another $1 billion-plus in state sales and income taxes that are scheduled to expire in 2011.
“Is this budget the smart and prudent thing to do looking toward the future?” asked Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln. “Is this budget sustainable?”
Democratic budget writers who have worked for two months fashioning cuts lashed out at Republicans who have suggested spending should fall by an additional $450 million.
“Tell us which teachers do you want us to fire, which correctional officers you want to cut,” said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, an education budget subcommittee leader. “The rhetoric that we can all apply is an easy thing.”
The House considered more than 20 amendments to the proposed budget and approved some Republican-backed amendments:
- One would extend the proposed repeal of the discount private foundations receive to pay tuition for out-of-state student athletes attending University of North Carolina campuses to cover academic scholars like the Park scholars at North Carolina State University and Morehead-Cain scholars at UNC-Chapel Hill. The $6.1 million saved would go to career technical programs in the public schools.
- Another would eliminate funding for end-of-course tests for American history, physical science, and civics and economics. About $2.1 million saved would go for school supplies for teachers.
Once the House casts its final vote for the budget, representatives and senators will meet to hash out differences in their two spending plans.
"We'll obviously have to work out our differences," Holliman said. "They want to do more for the universities, and we want to do more for the public schools. We'll work through that."
Senators have "lots of concerns" about the House budget , said Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth. A primary sticking point for her is a proposed cap on enrollment at University of North Carolina campuses.
"I never thought I'd see the day when we say to parents whose children are going to university, 'Well, yours can't come. Yours can come. Yours can't come because we can't find the money,'" Garrou said.