Budget votes usually come freighted with political implications, but the consequences may be more pronounced this year.
Democrats are waging an intense campaign to break the Republican supermajority in the legislature that gives the GOP power to control the agenda and ignore the Democratic governor.
Republicans, though anticipating some losses, are looking for newly competitive districts they can win.
Dallas Woodhouse, the state Republican Party executive director, said the party's list of targeted districts will expand depending on this week's budget votes. The GOP will look hard at defeating Democrats representing districts with high numbers of state employees, he said.
Democrats can't say they want more spending on education and higher state employee wages and then vote against a budget that provides that, Woodhouse said.
"The Democrats voting no on this budget, while bad for the people of North Carolina, will absolutely expand our target list," he said.
"If they don't vote for it, they suffer the consequences."
He mentioned Sen. Don Davis, a Democrat from Greenville, as a potential target, saying Davis would be voting against a pay raise for East Carolina University workers if he voted against the budget.
"Ads are ready to go on his district," Woodhouse said. The party sent out a press release focused on Davis.
Davis, who spent time with ECU students and employees who were observing "graduate education day" at the legislature, said he was still examining the budget.
"I'm talking to my constituents," Davis said. "My constituents will guide my decision, not Dallas."
Later in the day, Davis was the only Senate Democrat to vote for the budget, which passed 36-14. The plan would need to clear a second Senate vote and two House votes, which are expected to come this week to send the budget to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Senate Democratic leader Dan Blue of Raleigh said Woodhouse is spewing enough hot air to fill passenger balloons.
The teacher raises in the budget were not as generous as those Gov. Roy Cooper proposed, Blue said.
"We're not obligated to vote for bad budgets" that don't do enough for teachers and public education, to encourage job creation or to protect drinking water, Blue said.
Blue called the Republican strategy on the budget, which allows only up or down votes and no changes, the product of "backroom secret deals."