Budget deal unlikely by Friday deadline


RALEIGH — North Carolina House and Senate Republican leaders continued talks Monday on creating a state budget, but the reality has sunk in — they’ll have to pass another temporary spending measure to keep government operating.

Leaders from both chambers confirmed a “continuing resolution” must be approved before they go home this week. The first stop-gap spending measure was approved six weeks ago for the start of the fiscal year July 1. It expires Friday night.

In the meantime, senators are moving along the legislative process other big legislation they previously wanted incorporated into the broader budget negotiations. They conceded last week to put Medicaid and incentives changes in separate legislation.

Senate and House leaders began work Monday afternoon by meeting privately about the two-year budget, and top Republicans on both sides agree there’s still much to do. Even if there was agreement in principle on the budget, it would probably take 10 days to draw up all the associated legislation, said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, the No. 2 House chamber leader.

A continuing resolution is a “necessity,” Stam said after a House leadership meeting. “There’s no other way around it.”

Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, the Senate’s top budget-writer, also said a stop-gap extension would be necessary. School districts are anxiously awaiting the final budget since funding for thousands of teacher assistants is unresolved.

A key to passing the broader budget is deciding how much is available to spend this year. Brown said the two sides remain hundreds of millions of dollars apart.

Gov. Pat McCrory would be asked to sign the budget and spending extension bills.

The Senate’s altered Medicaid overhaul received tentative approval by a 38-10 vote. The bill, which needs another vote before returning to the House, would create a new state Medicaid Department and remove the massive $13 billion program from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The governor would appoint the new department’s secretary with legislative confirmation.

Both the House and Senate want to end the fee-for-service program for hospitals and doctors who care for Medicaid patients. In turn they want to replace it with one in which outside networks or managed-care outfits that enter into contracts with the state get per-patient payments.

The Senate still wants some private managed-care companies and insurers to enter into contracts. The House plan wants only local or regional hospital and doctor networks.

Senators also gave tentative approval 36-12 to the latest version of legislation to address McCrory’s request to expand some economic incentives to help in recruitment battles with other states to lure companies.

The measure also contains a newly retooled redistribution of local sales taxes that would help more rural communities at the expense of some urban counties. McCrory threatened a veto of any bill that contained an earlier redistribution formula. Many House lawmakers still oppose the local tax changes in the Senate’s new form. Brown, the bill’s leading spokesman, said rural counties need more revenues.

“It’s fairness,” Brown said. “Somebody’s gotta to be fair to these counties and help.”

The measure would extend the Job Development Investment Grants for three more years and increases the funds available to offer companies.

Senate Republican leaders made plain their displeasure with what’s inside a $2.86 billion bond package approved by the House last week. The bill was sent to the Senate Ways & Means Committee, where historically bills are sent to die.

Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said the House plan is too large, and he doesn’t like the bond containing $500 million in state debt for local school construction.

“That bond package they sent us is out of the question,” Apodaca said, calling it a bad precedent.

McCrory wants a bond package on the statewide ballot. McCrory communications Director Josh Ellis said by email the Senate’s committee choice was a “total lack of respect for the voters of North Carolina, who deserve a voice in determining our state’s future.”

Told of the response, Apodaca declined to comment.

Another continuing resolution expected

Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

 

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