Bringing The World Home To You

© 2024 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
91.5 Chapel Hill 88.9 Manteo 90.9 Rocky Mount 91.1 Welcome 91.9 Fayetteville 90.5 Buxton 94.1 Lumberton 99.9 Southern Pines 89.9 Chadbourn
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

State Senate Budget Plan Ups Medicaid Spending, Moves SBI

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

Lawmakers in the State Senate have presenteda $20.6 billion budget proposal. It would spend slightly less than Governor McCrory’s plan and offers no raises for state employees.  The plan would also increase state Medicaid spending by about $300 million and make big changes to the State Bureau of Investigation.
Republican budget writer Senator Pete Brunstetter told reporters earlier today that he knows this is a tough budget plan. He says its purpose is to make sure the state lives within its means.

"We’ve been through four extremely difficult years with a recession and post recession, and yet we manage this budget not only without a tax increase, but we manage it with some tax reform accounted for, and a tax cut accounted for," says Brunstetter.

Both Senate and House leaders want to lower state income and corporate tax rates and broaden the sales tax to include services. The Senate budget would set aside nearly $220 million to help pay for tax reform.

But the most salient feature of the Senate’s budget plan concerns the state’s Medicaid program. More money would be added to pay for inflation, expenses, and tens of thousands more patients coming onto the rolls. Brunstetter says  says he knows that places pressure on the state.  

"We’re making the hard decisions to divert resources into more critical programs, and sometimes that means tough decisions on those that are left behind," he says. "Bottom line is we are doing what we can with the resources that we have available to perform the fundamental responsibilities that state government has."

Although the Senate budget would allocate more money to Medicaid to take care of ballooning enrollment rolls, the sheer volume of patients requiring coverage means that Senate budget writers have made cuts within the program. Copays would go up, and funding for private nursing services and HIV drug assistance would go down.

In the area of education, Senate leaders say their proposed budget would fully fund enrollment growth in public schools, community colleges and the university system. And leaders want to move the State Bureau of Investigation from the Attorney General’s Office to the Department of Public Safety. Republican Senator Harry Brown explained why.

"It simply does not make sense for our state’s top attorney to supervise the SBI, just like it wouldn’t make sense for your local district attorney to supervise your sheriffs or police," said Brown.

That sparked a strong reaction earlier today from Attorney General Cooper himself.His news conference was carried by WRAL.  

Cooper said: "I stand here today with North Carolina police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors to urge the governor and the General Assembly, to keep the SBI independent from the governor’s executive branch and in the North Carolina Department of Justice."

In that news conference, held as Senate budget writers were still explaining their proposal, Cooper explained why he thinks the idea to move the State Bureau of Investigation out of the realm of his office is a bad idea.

"Over the last decade, the SBI has investigated over 500 public officials, including the past two governors administrations, a house speaker, legislators, the department of public safety…and other executive branch agencies," said Cooper.

The attorney general says it’s important for the SBI to remain independent so such probes won’t be influenced by officials it could be investigating. Senate subcommittees met this afternoon to discuss the budget proposal. It’s expected to be sent to the House later this week.

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
Related Stories
More Stories