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NC budget deal reached between House, Senate, officials say

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

North Carolina Republican legislative leaders have reached an agreement on adjustments to the second year of the two-year state government budget approved last fall, officials said Monday.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Lauren Horsch, a spokesperson for Senate leader Phil Berger, confirmed the agreement separately, but neither provided details about it, saying they'd likely come on Tuesday.

Moore said the actual legislation would be filed by Tuesday night, with two affirmative votes in the House and Senate required by the end of the week before it could head to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The new fiscal year starts Friday.

Berger and Moore began meeting late last week to hash out differences that their respective budget and tax-law writing lieutenants could not.

Horsch said the two chamber leaders spoke on Sunday with Cooper — who would be asked to sign any budget legislation into law — on Medicaid and the budget.

Cooper spokesperson Ford Porter made a similar comment, writing in an email Monday that “the governor is having discussions with House and Senate leaders about budget and health care issues.”

Last November, Cooper signed his first comprehensive state budget into law since getting sworn in 5 1/2 years ago, saying the good inside of it outweighed the bad. The measure in part included a multi-year plan to reduce the personal income tax from 5.25% to 3.99% and eliminate the corporate income tax, currently at 2.5%.

The General Assembly's annual work session began in mid-May.

The chief challenge for GOP legislators who control the General Assembly has been to figure out what to do with an additional $6.2 billion in projected revenues above and beyond what they anticipated state government would receive this fiscal year and the next year that begins July 1.

The enacted budget already tells state government how to spend about $27 billion for the next 12 months. Negotiators this month have been working through differences on additional tax cuts and pay raises beyond what is in the already-approved budget law.

The possibility of expanding Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of additional low-income adults in North Carolina surfaced again as negotiations near their end — although under different dynamics than in previous years.

Berger, a longtime expansion opponent, has changed his mind. He embraced legislation this spring that would expand Medicaid while making several other changes to nursing licensure and hospital construction that he said would help increase both health care access and professionals.

The bill passed the Senate in early June, but House Republicans were cool to the measure. Moore pitched a competing expansion bill last week that would direct Cooper's administration to develop an expansion plan by mid-December — after which legislators would take an up or down vote on all or parts of it Berger dismissed the House measure as essentially another expansion study.

As in previous years, Cooper proposed expansion in his budget proposal in May.

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