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NC Republican Leaders Say Budget Will Keep Teaching Assistants, Cut Income Taxes To 5.5%

Jorge Valencia
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (center left) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (center right), flanked by top Republicans from the House and Senate, outlined on Monday afternoon a tentative deal for North Carolina’s $21.7 billion budget. ";


Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore outlined a two-year spending plan this afternoon that would maintain funding for elementary school teaching assistants, high school drivers’ education classes, and gives state employees a one-time bonus of $750.

The budget also touches on major pieces of policy that are often outside of the scope of a spending plan. Moore and Berger said the plan sets aside funding for the state to overhaul its Medicaid program, and calls for a voter referendum next year to borrow $2 billion for highway and other infrastructure renovations.

Berger and Moore, both Republicans, delivered bullet points of what will likely be voted as North Carolina’s $21.7 billion spending plan for the next two years, more than two months after the state’s fiscal year deadline. The Republican super-majorities had vigorously disagreed on key points of what some critics have called an omnibus government bill, with some House leaders seeking to separate non-spending sections such as income taxes and Medicaid reform from the budget, while top senators said all pieces were intricately connected and more easily addressed collectively. Changes to the tax code will be included in the budget while Medicaid reform will be voted on in a separate bill, Moore and Berger said.

“The reality is we've talked about Medicaid reform for years. We've talked about ending the transfer from the highway fund for years. We've talked about some of the issues having to do with tax reform,” Berger said.  “Yes, it has taken us longer than we would've liked, but if you look at the big issues that we dealt with, if you look at how we resolved some things that had been nagging for a fairly substantial period of time, we’re concerned about the length of time, but the more important thing is that we get it right.”

The tentative deal summarized Monday afternoon must still be approved by lawmakers. The agreement was announced largely without specifics, and without bill language spelling out what had been negotiated, making it difficult to immediately determine what, exactly, had been decided.

Berger and Moore said the General Assembly’s non-partisan staff was working on the bill, and it would be available late Monday. The Senate plans a vote on the bill on Tuesday, Berger said. The House plans its vote on Thursday, as that chamber requires a report to be posted for 72 hours before vote, Moore said.

Berger and Moore declined to address specifics on overhauling the state’s Medicaid program. Moore said lawmakers could debate other bills as late as next week.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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.
Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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