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Friday, July 11, 2014

Senate cancels meeting as it butts heads with House, McCrory

Posted by on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 12:23 PM

Ten days past the intended target date for a combined budget, North Carolina legislators cancelled a day of deliberation as Gov. Pat McCrory and the House continue to lock horns with the Senate.

State senators said they would not meet with their House counterparts July 11, even as looming areas of disagreement remain in the state budget. Another meeting is scheduled for July 14, giving both sides time to cool down.

At a contentious meeting July 10, McCrory threatened to veto any budget that contained the Senate’s plan to raise teacher salaries by 11 percent. The House has its own 6 percent teacher pay raise proposal, which McCrory said he favored.

A day earlier, multiple senators walked out of a budget meeting when the House allowed outside speakers like Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools’ superintendent speak, returning an hour later.

The Senate is also pushing for cuts to teachers’ assistants and the Department of Public Institution, both of which are opposed by the House, which instead wants to raise funds by pouring more money into ad revenue for the North Carolina Education Lottery.

Disagreements between the House and Senate have reached a fever pitch since the Senate rejected the House’s simplified proposal on July 7, sending it back to the House without a vote in a rare procedural move.

As state Republicans argue over the budget, McCrory has continually stood by the House, creating an in-party conflict reminiscent of the Democrats’ yearly budget battles.

Disagreements between the Senate and McCrory bubbled up during debates over the budget’s Medicaid funding as well. The Senate said the Medicaid estimate put forth by McCrory (and by extension, state Budget Director Art Pope) was around $300 million shy of the true, needed cost in the state. That estimate was only released after the Senate threatened to subpoena Pope.

It’s worth pointing out that cuts to education and Medicaid would not be viewed as necessary if the General Assembly had not passed tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest state residents years earlier, creating a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The House and Senate reached a compromise on Medicaid funding, one of the other areas of contention, but are still butting heads over a Senate budget measure to reduce eligibility for thousands of North Carolinians.

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