State Lawmakers Say Final Budget Is Almost Ready, Details Unclear

Jul 29, 2014

Credit Dave DeWitt / WUNC

 Nearly a month past their deadline, state leaders say they hope to release a final spending plan adjustment in the next couple of days.

Top negotiators haven't officially released any details yet, but they expect to give teachers average raises of about 7 percent. 

The big question though is how the two chambers ironed out their differences over Medicaid eligibility and cuts to teaching assistants. The House had strongly opposed the Senate's original plan of cutting teaching assistants in second and third grades. After session yesterday, Senate leader Harry Brown argued that the money allocated for teacher assistants isn't always used for that purpose.

"When you say cuts, it's really not in teacher assistants, as you can remember, that pot of money wasn't used for all of teaching assistants, a lot of that money was used for other things, in particular teacher positions," he said. 

Brown said that the final budget deal would give school districts less flexibility in how they can use teaching assistant funding. They want to move some of that money to pay full teachers, but rely on some lottery funding to make sure teaching assistants keep their jobs. 

Meanwhile, legislative plans to reform Medicaid could remain unresolved.

The state senate passed a Medicaid bill without debate in a very short floor session Monday night. It would allow managed care companies to treat low-income patients who qualify for the program, in addition to provider-led plans.

“I don't anticipate Medicaid reform being in the budget,” said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. “I do know that it's not unusual for us to have a view that something ought to be resolved one way and the House- that it ought to be resolved another way.”

Berger says he suspects that the House will not concur with the bill and will instead appoint conferees.