North Carolina state lawmakers have given themselves yet more time to pass the state’s budget. Wednesday, the House and Senate passed another continuing resolution which keeps the state funded through September 18.
If the clerk of the North Carolina Senate sounded bored Thursday morning, you couldn’t blame him. This is, after all, the third time he’s introduced such an extension.
Lawmakers in both chambers say progress has been made. They’ve agreed on the overall size of the state budget, $21.7 billion. And they have roughly cut up that pie – agreeing to targets on how much each area of the budget will get. So what’s left? “Now it’s just getting the details worked out through the subcommittees,” according to Republican Senator Harry Brown. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. The details are the specific amounts on how much each program gets. And negotiators from both the House and Senate are staying through the weekend in an effort to get that process rolling. Only then can the actual subcommittees, committees and chambers vote on the bill.
This budget was due on June 30. These delays come with costs, like uncertainty in the number of teachers and teacher assistants in public schools which opened earlier this week. That concern was downplayed by Senator Tom Apodaca in a committee meeting, when he did a bit of a Q and A session with Senator Brown.
Apodaca: “Do you know of any schools that did not open this week?”
Brown: “I have not heard of any.”
Apodaca: “Senator Brown do you know of any schools that didn’t have teachers there for the children when they opened?”
Brown: “I’ve not heard of any of those either.”
There’s another cost to these three extensions, $2.1 million. That’s the cost of these extra seven weeks of the legislative session according to the state. That’s enough to cover the average salary of 47 teachers in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District.
Even if lawmakers are able to get through the budget details quickly they still have more on their plate says Speaker Tim Moore, “There’s Medicaid, the bond package is still out there, the economic development package, there are a number of things we still need to deal with.” And Moore acknowledges some senators are threatening to block any move to adjourn the session until all those issues are dealt with.