Under the Dome

Moore and Berger indicate a new state budget by July 1 is unlikely

Chambers led by Senate leader Phil Berger (left) and House Speaker Tim Moore are nearing debate on a big budget item.
Chambers led by Senate leader Phil Berger (left) and House Speaker Tim Moore are nearing debate on a big budget item. cliddy@newsobserver.com

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger are indicating it is unlikely a new state budget will be in place in time for the start of the state’s next spending year, which begins July 1.

With no budget, lawmakers would pass a “continuing resolution” that keeps state operations running under the current budget set up.

“I do believe we will need a continuing resolution,” Moore said Thursday. “The issue will be how long. I don’t believe it is realistic to expect that we will have a budget by July 1. So we need a continuing resolution in place so state agencies, schools and so forth will be able to plan at least some for next year.”

The speaker added: “We will be here as long as we need to be. I’m in no hurry.”

Lawmakers have been in session since January with the main purpose of adopting a spending plan for the next fiscal year. But there are differences in their plans, which now have both been adopted with passage on Thursday by the Senate of its budget.

Berger seemed to agree in an interview that the budget won’t be finished soon, especially if House members do not agree – or concur – with the Senate plan adopted Thursday.

“I suspect if they don’t concur, it will probably take us awhile,” Berger said.

The biggest question is how much to spend: The Senate proposes a 2 percent spending increase from the current fiscal year; the House budget sets a 5 percent hike.

“That’s just the nature of the beast,” Hager said. “We probably all know we’ll be at the 3 or 3.5 (percent) range.”

Then there’s sweeping policy items embedded in the Senate budget: major changes for the Medicaid program, income tax cuts, new sales taxes and more.

“If that’s the way we’re going to be about it, we’re going to take the necessary time to get it right,” said Rep. Chuck McGrady, a House budget co-chairman.

How much time is needed? “I’m expecting to be here until Labor Day,” McGrady said.

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