The House gave final approval to the $22.34 billion budget compromise Friday morning, sending the bill to the governor for signing as the new fiscal year opens.
As of this writing, there seems to be little momentum for passage of other major bills.
With the budget passed, House leadership expects to wrap up the state’s business either Friday or Saturday, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said.
Moore called for a recess Friday afternoon until 3:30 p.m. for committee meetings before preparing to go back into session to dispense with the items on the calendar and receive committee reports and messages from the Senate.
With time short, observers note that the likelihood of changes being made to HB 2 or the passage of a bill that would put three Constitutional amendments on the ballot in November are doubtful.
The latter bill, House Bill 3, passed in the Senate, would put three Constitutional amendments in front of voters to cap the state income tax, put limits on eminent domain and affirm the right to hunt and fish in the state. However, the measure was placed in the House Rules Committee, which is generally a graveyard for legislation this late in the session.
One change that may come to HB 2 could be a small change that would allow workplace discrimination lawsuits over HB 2 to be filed in state courts instead of federal courts.
Observers question whether any compromise on HB 2 would be enough to appease those opposed to the bill, who have repeatedly called full repeal of the bill the only acceptable recourse.
The $22.34 billion budget compromise, passed Friday, 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 increase 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.