As House and Senate Republicans keep working in Raleigh to merge their competing spending plans into one, their delays in passing a two-year state budget will cost more than $1 million as a result.
The tab comes largely from the legislature’s inability to pass a new state budget that’s supposed to take effect July 1. Lawmakers instead have approved two temporary spending extensions – the latest of which was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Pat McCrory and expires Aug. 31.
It costs the state on average an extra $840,000 for every additional month the legislature meets compared with the cost of running operations when the annual session is adjourned. That’s also calculated as $42,000 per weekday, according to the General Assembly’s financial services office.
The extra money spent while the legislature is in session goes in part to increase hours for part-time workers. The 170 legislators receive $104 per day designated for housing and other living expenses.
A session that lasts until Aug. 31 would result in $504,000 in additional expenses. Even if a budget is passed, House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, said lawmakers could stay into mid-September to wrap up unfinished business. The state Constitution or law doesn’t mandate when the legislature ends annually.
The extra costs are very small compared with the ultimate state budget, which will likely spend around $21 billion this year. The General Assembly set aside money for this year’s session through June 30 but can pay for extra days through unspent funds it holds, according to Wesley Taylor, the legislature’s controller.
Still, Democrats and their allies this week have criticized Republicans in charge of the legislature for failing to pass the budget on time, leaving school districts, particularly teacher assistants, in a lurch. GOP leaders responded by pointing out Democrats passed budgets in late July and August when they were in charge.
Two-year budgets are written in odd-numbered years. Going back to 1995 under both Democratic and Republican rule, five two-year budgets have been enacted on June 30 or sooner and five occurred after. On average, the budget in those years was passed on July 26.
Using July 26 as a starting date, the extra legislative costs are at $588,000 through Thursday and would exceed $1 million by the end of August.
Looking at those same odd-numbered years, the Legislature on average has completed its annual work session in mid-August. The 2001 session went until early December, marking the longest session in state history. The budget that year became law Sept. 26.