Under the Dome

NC Senate likely to delay budget release

Sen. Harry Brown, right, is one of the Senate's chief budget writers and says the spending plan will be released this week.
Sen. Harry Brown, right, is one of the Senate's chief budget writers and says the spending plan will be released this week. cseward@newsobserver.com

The N.C. Senate will likely delay budget votes originally slated for Wednesday and Thursday, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown.

Brown, who’s one of the chamber’s top budget writers, said he expects the schedule released late last month will change.

“It may get delayed a few days,” he said last week. “There’s a few pieces where the provisions are just difficult to put together – some education provisions and (health and human services) provisions.”

But Brown added that the budget proposal – currently being assembled by leading Republicans in closed-door meetings – will still be released this week.

“I’m just not sure we can vote on it” by the end of the week, he said.

If the Senate budget vote doesn’t happen until the week of June 15, a conference committee would have two weeks or less to work out the differences between the House and Senate’s spending plans.

The current budget expires on June 30, but legislators could pass a short-term budget to keep government running if no final agreement is reached by then.

The differences are shaping up to be sharp, if recent comments from Brown and Senate leader Phil Berger are any indication. While the House budget would represent a spending increase of up to 6 percent from the current fiscal year, Senate leaders say they’ll only support a 2.5 to 3 percent increase.

“You’ll see a lot less spending in our budget, and you’ll see a lot more money in rainy day (funds) and repairs and renovations – we just think that’s important,” Brown said last week. “You’re probably going to see a different approach in transportation.”

And while the Senate budget’s details aren’t yet public, Democrats are already weighing in with their own priorities.

“I look forward to getting to work next week once leadership releases the budget, to ensure that North Carolina has the tools that it needs to attract high quality, good paying jobs to this state,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said in a news release Friday. “If we can work together to implement responsible incentive programs for job creators and restore North Carolina’s excellence in education ... I know that North Carolina can and will attract great jobs and continue to grow our economy.”

Legislative observers are also wondering if the Senate will include some version of a Brown proposal to change how sales tax revenues are distributed among counties.

That plan has drawn criticism because it would benefit rural counties while leaving less revenue for urban counties, where the majority of retail sales occur.

A newsletter last week from the N.C. League of Municipalities – which has voiced concerns about the change – said it “may be packaged with other finance elements of the Senate budget.”

Asked about whether sales tax changes will appear in the budget, Brown was noncommittal.

“That piece is still being debated on how we’ll handle it,” he said. “Some of it ties into the budget piece of it.”

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