Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and newly elected House Speaker Tim Moore fielded questions about their expectations for the session at a news conference Wednesday.
They spoke only in general terms, promising to continue efforts they think will improve the economy and said they would keep their promise to bring starting teacher pay up to $35,000 a year. Whittling away at tax and regulatory roadblocks will be the guiding light, they said.
Berger said regulatory changes would be good for business but would also keep environmental protections in place.
How to run a government while cutting taxes: Berger downplayed concerns over the $190 million gap in projected tax revenue because of tax cuts that took effect a year ago. Berger said there is some thought that it isn’t a gap but a “timing issue.” But even if it does amount to that it is a drop in the bucket for a $20 billion budget.
He said sales tax and corporate income tax collections are up, but individual income taxes are lagging behind projections.
Medicaid reform: Both legislative leaders agreed the health care program for the poor needs to be reformed but expanding it to benefit half a million more people in North Carolina is not going to happen. Moore said the federal government could end up sticking the state with the cost down the road.
Incentives: The governor has said the legislature needs to fund incentives quickly or jobs that could be lured to the state will fall through. Berger said he would defer comment until he sees a specific proposal from the governor and commerce officials.
“There’s support in the House and Senate for doing everything we can to make North Carolina a competitive place,” Berger said, adding that doesn’t necessarily mean incentives.
Working with the governor: Berger and McCrory have been sharply at odds periodically over the past two years. But Berger said “All relationships evolve. The governor and I have what I consider to be a good working relationship.”