NC Senate rejects House education mini-budget without even a vote

Posted by John Frank on June 30, 2014 

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North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and NC House Speaker Thom Tillis (right), flanked by teachers, education administrators, and lawmakers announced legislation that will give teachers a 5 percent raise, does not require them to give up their tenure, and will not cut teacher assistant positions during a press conference Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

Using a rare procedural maneuver, the Senate rejected the House’s education-focused spending plan without so much as a vote Monday.

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca sent the mini-budget – endorsed by Gov. Pat McCrory – back to the House without considering it, citing a rule that allows the chamber to return a spending bill that is not balanced.

Apodaca said the $134 million the House put toward Medicaid won’t cover the state’s obligations for the health insurance program and the budget didn’t include enough money for its pension obligations.

But more than anything, Apodaca said, the move was designed to send a message. “We are serious about getting a budget deal and it’s time to stop playing games,” the Hendersonville Republican.

It also allows the Senate to avoid the political pressure related with a measure that delivers pay hikes to teachers and state employees, as the House legislation promised.

Attention now refocused on the broader budget bill. House and Senate leaders met Monday to resume talks on the $21 billion spending plan. Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican and the chamber’s lead negotiator, said the first obstacle is the Medicaid number. Fiscal analysts suggest the budget needs to put a minimum $156 million toward the program to cover costs but the Senate wants even more.

“Getting the Medicaid number right is our priority,” Brown said. “I sense some movement on the House side.”

Either way, the fiscal year ended Monday without a new budget, meaning state government is operating on the prior year’s budget for the time being.

House and Senate lawmakers are likely to continue talks Tuesday and Wednesday on the budget and take a break for the Fourth of July holiday. How long the session goes into July is still unclear.

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