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Senate Budget Writers Make Concessions, Come Closer To A Deal

General Assembly
Dave DeWitt

Leaders in the state Senate have offered an eight percent pay raise for teachers as they inch closer to putting together a budget.

Senate leaders unveiled their offer to House budget negotiators late Tuesday afternoon. Senators had previously wanted to give educators raises of 11 percent, but House leaders said such a large increase would require cutting too many other areas.

The Senate plan would still cut all second-grade teacher assistants. But they would be funded with non-recurring dollars, so the positions would expire by the end of this fiscal year if no actions are taken. 

Many lawmakers discussed the fact that many school districts often use money for teacher assistants to help pay for other things. Last year, school districts spent 20 percent of the $450 million that went toward TAs to help fund fully licensed teachers and other areas of education.

Lawmakers talked about perhaps giving school districts more flexibility. House Speaker Thom Tillis asked senators if they could consider giving school districts the option of taking all of the raise or only part of it, and using the rest of the money to pay for teacher assistants and the like. 

The Senate has also offered to restore eligibility for some services for aged, blind and disabled Medicaid recipients. 

"That moves our Medicaid cut to about 150 million, the House is at about 120 million, puts us about 30 million apart on Medicaid," said Republican Senate leader Harry Brown. "And I would surely hope that we can sit down and find a way to narrow that gap to about 30 million dollars in Medicaid at this point."

House leaders thanked the Senate for the offer, but they haven't said whether they'll accept it. Negotiations are expected to continue Wednesday.

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