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State Lawmakers Begin Budget Negotiations With Looming Deadline

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt
File photo of N.C. General Assembly in Raleigh, 2021.

Senate and House leaders are expected to begin meeting in conference committees this week to make adjustments to the two-year budget plan. 

They have until June 30th to resolve differences and send their spending plan to Governor Pat McCrory.

Medicaid funding and teacher pay raises are expected to be the key sticking points in negotiations. But many Republicans, like Representative Craig Horn (R-Union), say they’re optimistic about the process.

“I think we’re going to find fundamental agreement on teacher pay raises, how much it should be and how we’re going to fund it,” he said. “I think we’re going to find it  - I don’t want it to say quickly, but in the scheme of things, quickly.” 

The Senate plan would offer an average 11 percent teacher pay raise by eliminating funding for second- and third-grade teacher assistants, while the House would get help from the state’s lottery program.

Republican representatives say that by doubling the lottery’s advertising budget, the state would rake in an extra $106 million for teacher raises. But recent projections show that restrictions in advertising would bring in far less money. 

Minority leader Larry Hall and a group of House Democrats blasted both spending plans on Tuesday, saying they were crafted in dishonest and undemocratic ways. Hall called for a more open and transparent process as the final budget plan is negotiated. 

“Let's have an open discussion so the public can see who is bringing forward the ideas, what they are actually based on and they can do the research to make sure that bad information, false information doesn't get figured in the equation,” he said.

Governor Pat McCrory says he’s taking precautions in case lawmakers aren’t able to amend the two-year budget by the end of the month. He’s instructed his budget director, Art Pope, to issue measures on how state government agencies will operate.

McCrory said spending for teacher assistants would not be affected, as well as people on Medicaid. But teacher and state employees would not see pay raises.  

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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