By GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press
RALEIGH, NC (AP) – Republicans in the North Carolina legislature finally agreed on Tuesday on how much they want to spend on state government next year, loosening a fiscal knot that has delayed House and Senate budget work for weeks.
GOP leaders in both chambers set their spending cap for the year starting July 1 at $ 25.7 billion, 3.45% higher than spending for the current fiscal year. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger also said in a press release they pledged to cut taxes “for the vast majority” of North Carolina residents. , but did not specify the amount of income they would forgo.
Until last week, the two chambers were hundreds of millions of dollars apart on a target, with the Senate wanting to spend less than the House. Fixing a dollar amount now is designed to facilitate negotiations between the two back houses, once each party approves competing plans on how to spend the money.
The initial disagreement meant that the Senate, which traditionally passes a budget this year, delayed action on a spending plan it was supposed to complete by the end of April. Patience waned last week when Moore publicly said his budget writers would adopt their own plan if there weren’t any big steps toward a spending cap. Phil Berger returned the volley by threatening to approve more modest spending measures this year, rather than passing a comprehensive budget bill.
Reaching that milestone means Senate Republicans can roll out a budget and pass it within the next two or three weeks, with the House coming up with a competing plan soon after.
“This deal builds on the past decade of responsible Republican-led budgets, resulting in a decade of boom that has put North Carolina on a solid course to recover from the recession,” Berger and Moore said in the communicated.
The two houses will then negotiate a final package to be sent to Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Cooper’s budget proposal would spend $ 26.6 billion. Both figures are lower than the $ 27.35 billion in revenue that state economists estimated four months ago to next year.
Cooper’s successful involvement in these negotiations will say a lot about whether the budget was enacted or vetoed, as it has done three times since 2017. A budget stalemate between Cooper and legislative leaders in 2019 has never been fully resolved. , leading to the passage of specific spending bills to categories similar to those suggested by Berger would have emerged without a deal.
The crux of the 2019 standoff centered on Cooper’s insistence that lawmakers consider expanding Medicaid to hundreds of thousands more adults. The Republicans’ press release on Tuesday said they had agreed that their competing budgets would contain no expansion. And instead of any bundle of bonds for the construction of schools or public buildings, the GOP said it has committed at least $ 4.2 billion in cash for capital spending.
Democrats argue that more spending is needed to meet education, health care and environmental needs. They say it can be done even while increasing the state’s emergency reserves, because state government coffers are so empty after the pandemic. Another revenue forecast is expected very soon and could raise revenue expectations next year. And all of this is in addition to billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief assistance that has yet to be spent.
Arguments between the House and Senate over the basic spending figure have focused on a formula that takes into account inflation and the state’s population growth. Senate Republicans have expressed more allegiance to this recipe over the years than the House. Tuesday’s deal also says the GOP’s 2022-2023 budget would spend no more than $ 26.7 billion.
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