Sources at the General Assembly say legislative leaders are looking to wrap up the budget and Short Session by Saturday.
Shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) opened up the floor for debates on the budget compromise, with the goal of getting the budget dispensed with before the week is out.
Before debate on the budget began, Moore said that there would be a one-hour limit on debates on each side of the budget.
The $22.34 billion budget compromise, released Monday, represents a 2.8 percent spending increase overall and “achieves both chambers’ shared goals with Gov. Pat McCrory of prioritizing teacher pay raises, cutting taxes on the middle class, controlling the growth of government spending and bolstering the state’s savings” according to Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Moore.
The budget offers a relatively small increase in spending compared to previous budgets, giving conservatives more to be happy about than past budgets did.
“I am grateful to members of the Senate and House for reaching a compromise that continues the discipline and conservative principles of spending responsibly, taxing sparingly and saving wisely that have turned North Carolina’s fiscal outlook around from multi-billion-dollar deficits to significant budget surpluses,” Berger said. “This budget keeps our promises to support our public schools and raise teacher pay above $50,000, let families and small businesses keep more of their hard-earned money, and control the spiraling costs of college.”
“This budget is the embodiment of what can be accomplished when common sense, conservative ideas are put to work,” Moore said. “We are cutting taxes, reinvesting in the state’s infrastructure and saving money. I am particularly happy that, in addition to teachers, we were able to deliver pay raises to our state employees and provide a one-time payment to our much-deserving state retirees.”
The budget will boost average teacher salaries to $50,186 next school year and to nearly $55,000 within three years, moving average teacher pay above $50,000 for the first time in state history.
Under the budget plan, teachers will get pay raises averaging 4.7 percent, and state employees will get raises averaging 1.5 percent.
The budget also includes a 1.6 percent cost-of-living raise for state retirees.
The budget agreement provides more than $550 million in salary and benefit changes for state workers. But even with the increases in spending for salary adjustments, the overall increase in the budget is less of a jump than those passed in years without large salary increases for state employees.
The budget includes the targeted raises the Senate was seeking, including experienced-based step increases to valuable teachers, assistant principals, principals, State Highway Patrol troopers, clerks and magistrates and correctional officers. It also provides a 4.5 percent pay raise to assistant district attorneys, public defenders and other judicial branch workers.
Read more about the proposed budget deal here.
Bill on amendments sidetracked
A bill passed in the Senate that would put three Constitutional amendments in front of voters in the state in November to cap the state income tax, put limits on eminent domain and affirm the right to hunt and fish in the state was placed in the House Rules Committee, which is generally a graveyard for legislation this late in the session.