House leaders formally announced their $22.9 billion budget plan at a press conference Thursday morning ahead of what is expected to be a long day of debate on the floor.
The House budget cuts personal and business taxes, though not as deeply as the Senate’s budget plan passed last month. The House spending plan targets certain industries for tax cuts, whereas the Senate budget takes more of a broad approach to its tax cuts.
The House budget represents a 2.5 percent increase over the 2016-17 budget and includes teacher raises, as well as targeted bonuses, infrastructure improvements for broadband and transportation projects. “This is a great budget, this is a budget that cuts taxes, invests in critical needs, that gives teachers and state employees a well deserved pay raise, that puts aside money to save for those rainy days that we know all too often come, and prioritizes the investments that we believe the people of this state want us to make,” ” House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said. “And we’ve been lucky we had a great surplus again this year. And I say luck because it is also because of the great policies we’ve enacted. We’ve got a great regulatory environment, we got a great tax structure, some of the lowest taxes in the country now, and that’s not accidental.”
The House budget would direct and additional $263 million to the state Savings Reserve, bringing the fund to its highest level of $1.82 billion.
The budget includes raises for most state employees as well in the form of $1,000 increases in each of the two coming fiscal years.
Moore handed over the press conference to Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), the chief budget writer in the House, to continue introducing the spending plan.
“This is a sound and responsible budget that does address the needs of our citizens, and does move this state forward,” Dollar said. “We believe this package that we have presented is a balanced approach.”
He said that the budget balances tax reductions with infrastructure investments to prepare the state to be more competitive in key areas of business such as manufacturing.
“Republicans have learned the lessons of the Great Recession, and we believe that as the times are good that we have to continue to remember those lessons and prepare for down the road, hopefully not sometime soon, when the revenues are not coming in,” Dollar said.
Looking forward to the coming debate on the bill Moore asked that all proposed amendments be sent to the bill drafting division by 3 p.m. to help move along the debate process, but if past years are any indication legislators will be in the chamber until well after midnight.
Moore asked the assembled legislators if they preferred meeting after midnight for a third reading on the bill or if they would rather come back on Friday morning around 9 a.m.. to which a majority decided to stay for the late session, if the second reading debate runs until at least 10 p.m. that is.
Moore said if it seems that things are heading in that direction he may call for a dinner recess but the rule banning food on the House floor has already been suspended in preparation for the debate this evening as well.
“I’ve just sort of drawn a line at 10 p.m. and if we are done at 10 p.m. then we are going to be done for the day and come back Friday morning,” Moore said.