During the ongoing budget discussions at the Legislature, some of the best inside information on the proceedings has come from House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who has been very active on social media during recent weeks in respect to the budget deal — much more so than his Senate counterparts.
They have a week to get a new budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year passed and signed to avoid having to pass a fourth continuing resolution (CR) to keep the state government running.
The current CR, set to expire Sept. 18, is the continuation of CRs set to expire Aug. 14 and another set for Aug. 31.
Moore’s tweets have conveyed an insider’s hopes for the process, yet also underscored the budget logjam.
For example, Moore announced on Aug. 26 that the House and Senate had come to an agreement on general numbers for education, Health and Human Services, Environment and Natural Resources and other budget items. Turning those general numbers into specifics has apparently remained a challenge.
This week, with the process dragging on, Moore said on Twitter Tuesday that he hoped to have a conference report budget printed out by the end of the week.
On Thursday he tweeted that state leaders were close and that a number of issues hanging up the discussions had been solved, possibly putting the finish line within sight.
That day, Moore even went so far as to say he was “very optimistic” a budget agreement would be finished by Thursday afternoon. As of Friday afternoon, however, no final deal had been announced.
Senate leaders have not been nearly as active as Moore on social media, playing their cards closer to the vest than Moore has.
The Senate seems more interested in working out the budget more privately.
Some have mused that Senate budget negotiators have dug in their heels; there is even whispering on Jones Street that talks may drag into next month.
Minimum of 5 days needed to pass budget
Legislators have until Sunday to get a budget printed to avoid needing a fourth CR.
A proposed budget must be publicly available for 72 hours before it can be voted on, according to state law.
With the 72-hour requirement and the requirements that the second and third readings happen on separate days, statehouse leaders will need Monday to Wednesday to have the budget out for inspection, then take votes Thursday and Friday, and finally have the governor sign the budget on Friday.
Budgets started $700M apart
The delays stem from a $700 million spending gap between the two chambers’ plans.
The Senate’s $21.47 billion plan offers a 2 percent increase over last year in spending, and it channels money to the state savings coffers, while the House’s spending plan, at $22.2 billion, would increase spending 5 percent and funnel more funding to corporate incentives and other areas.
Both spending plans include raises for starting teacher salaries to $35,000, fulfilling an earlier promise to work to attract more teachers to the state.
The Senate budget moves state wildlife resources – including its aquariums, state parks and zoo – under the Department of Cultural Resources, in line with McCrory’s plan, while the House budget did not.
The Senate budget appropriates an expected $400 million revenue surplus to the state’s savings accounts. The House sees the surplus, and a generally improving economic climate, as a chance to spend more.
The Senate budget comes closest to the governor’s proposal, landing about $50 million under McCrory’s plan.
The House plan overshoots McCrory’s proposal by $630 million.