LEGISLATIVE REPORT - May 29, 2019
The legislature has continued business at a slower pace following the heavy schedules for both chambers during Crossover and the release of the House’s proposed budget. With the House having passed its version of the budget, the Senate has been spending most of their time crafting theirs. Senate leadership held a press conference Tuesday morning laying out the broad outlines of their plan (see below). The Senate is expected to vote on their budget by the end of the week, and once the Senate approves their version, negotiations between the chambers will begin in earnest. All involved understand, of course, that Gov. Cooper is likely to veto the plan if it does not include a plan to expand Medicaid and other priorities his office has detailed. With enough Democratic votes to sustain a veto, Republicans will be hoping to include spending and provisions that entice Democratic support. This may be difficult as only one House member voted for the budget, so expect the final product to include provisions that are popular enough with the public to make voting against the budget politically problematic.
In the coming weeks, as the Senate passes its budget and the cross-chamber negotiations are underway, action on bills will likely be slow and sparse. Both chambers have an incentive to hold the other’s legislation “hostage” until negations are complete. While this may make strategic sense, it can be maddening to policymakers whose bills are stuck, and to the groups advocating for needed changes to the law that will likely have to wait a few more weeks to see movement. If this session follows the pattern of previous years, once the budget is done, the legislative “floodgates” will open and committee calendars will fill up quickly.
Highlights of the Senate budget (from Sen. Berger’s press office):
- Raises for all teachers. Veteran teachers would receive a bonus of up to $1,000 annually. The average teacher raise, excluding bonuses, would be 3.5 percent over two years.
- Correctional officer raises of 5 percent over two years, plus at least $7,500 in salary supplements for facilities with the highest employee vacancy rates.
- Most full-time State employees would receive a 5 percent raise over two years. In the House budget, aside from teachers and principals, most State employees would receive just a 1 percent raise.
- $1.3 billion in additional spending for public education over two years.
- Funding for 100 new school psychologists.
- $4.8 billion across three accounts for school construction and maintenance over 10 years, starting immediately.
- No Medicaid Expansion or NC Expansion is included in the budget
- Certificate of Need changes, which are opposed by the House, are included in the budget
- Less funding for Medicaid Transformation and Group Home funding is provided in the Senate version
PUBLIC SAFETY AND JUSTICE
- Funding to eliminate the backlog in processing rape kits within two years.
- Funding to implement “Raise the Age,” which would increase from 16 to 18 the age at which teenagers are treated as adults for nonviolent crimes.
TAXES AND RAINY-DAY FUND
- Increases standard tax deduction to $21,000 and decreases franchise tax. No information
was available about how much the franchise tax would decrease.
- $1.1 billion to the Rainy-Day Fund over two years. Berger’s release said state economists
estimate the fund needs at least $2.6 billion to withstand a recession.
NEW CAPITOL MONUMENT TO AFRICAN AMERICANS
- $2.5 million to construct a monument on the State Capitol grounds in downtown Raleigh honoring the contributions of African Americans.
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