@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

State budget now in Senate's hands

Posted May 3, 2019 7:44 p.m. EDT

— The House on Friday gave final approval to a $23.9 billion state budget, sending it to the Senate.

"This plan is fiscally sound. This plan is in balance. This plan lives within our means," said Rep. Donnie Lambeth, R-Forsyth, a senior budget writer.

But Rep. Wesley Harris, D-Mecklenburg, said the budget risks putting the state "in economic peril" because of a lack of investment in education and health care.

"Investing in people and communities will bring better benefits than any tax cut ever will," Harris said.

The budget includes raises for teachers with at least 16 years of classroom experience that average 4.6 percent. Teachers with less experience would get their step increases on the state salary schedule but wouldn't get any additional raise.

Most other state workers would receive the greater of a 1 percent raise or $500. State retirees wouldn't get any pension bumps in the coming year.

The way the budget is structured, however, would delay all proposed raises until Jan. 1 instead of starting them at the beginning of the 2019-20 fiscal year in July.

The House's 61-51 vote came after members considered another 16 proposed amendments – that's 50 on the floor over two days following 50-plus during the House Appropriations meeting on Wednesday, for those keeping count.

Most of the proposals passed with little debate, but a few prompted acrimonious debate:

  • One called for shifting some agricultural funding from North Carolina State University to North Carolina A&T State University, a historically black institution. Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, said N.C. State merely distributes the money to county extension offices, and there was no reason for "a race war" in pushing for a change.

Stevens' comment brought reactions of disgust from several black House members.

  • Money for a virtual pre-kindergarten targeting at-risk youngsters that was pulled from the budget Thursday was restored on Friday, much to the disappointment of lawmakers who said children need less screen time and more in-person instruction.
  • An effort by House leadership to freeze salaries of some Department of Transportation workers who mistakenly got large raises last year was beaten back by lawmakers who said it was unfair to punish them for someone else's mistake.