Updated: The House voted unanimously Thursday to pass the new $21.3 billion budget.
The bill allocates $1.8 million to DENR for coal ash regulation, as well as $134 million to the Medicaid risk reserve. It provides for in-state tuition for veterans and gives retirees a 1.44 percent cost of living increase.
In a statement, Senate President pro tempore Phil Berger criticized the budget but said the Senate “stands ready to negotiate a fair compromise.”
“We want to give teachers more than a five percent raise and cannot accept unrealistic Medicaid estimates that create an unbalanced, unsustainable budget,” Berger said.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, called the budget “fiscally sound.”
The Rev. Barber fired up a crowd protesting budget cuts to education and private school vouchers outside the General Assembly this afternoon.
At the same time, a House committee debated and easily passed a “mini-budget,” a team effort between the House and Governor McCrory that would give teachers and state employees raises without the wacky reliance on lottery ticket sales.
The 40-page bill gives teachers a 5 percent pay raise and a more competitive starting salary. It gives state employees a $1,000 pay raise and 5 extra vacation days. It preserves teaching assistants and doesn’t tie teachers’ tenure to salary increases. It allocates money for veterans’ education and funding for McCrory’s “Career Pathways” teacher development program.
“This bill allows us to highlight and focus on education,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, the House senior budget chairman. “We know those are the priorities all chambers support and the Governor supports.”
Dollar and budget staff explained that the mini-budget uses existing lottery accounts, re-directed funds and more than $360 million in cuts that were in both the original House and Senate budgets. It also cuts money to public universities.
“The bill allows both chambers to move forward on promises we made,” Dollar said. “As schools begin, they know the necessary budget adjustments have been made if other negotiations need to go on longer.”
The Governor expressed his support for the bill at a press conference before the committee meeting; the House Speaker attended, but no one from the Senate showed up.
The bill will go to the House floor Thursday.
Rev. Barber and the crowd—who spent the afternoon taking report cards to legislators on things public schools do and don’t need—probably won’t be satisfied with the bill.
The mini-budget also allocates $11.8 million to “opportunity scholarships,” the new private school voucher program.