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Legislators Announce Pre-Negotiated Budget Deal Likely To Face House And Senate Votes Next Week

On Tuesday, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) was quoted in several statewide media reports as saying he expects the full state budget to be ready for votes next week and that legislators were working diligently on final details being negotiated by the House and Senate.

 Speaker Moore also confirmed that the budget will be in the form of a conference report, which, according to him, will streamline the process by adjusting the two-year budget adopted in 2017.

A conference report prevents amendments once House and Senate negotiations have concluded. It cannot be amended in any committee or on the House or Senate floor and is strictly subject to a yes or no vote on the entire package in both chambers. The conference report will be included in Senate Bill 99, which was previously unrelated to the budget. The budget conference report is being negotiated by 40 House members and 24 Senators, all Republicans who hold leadership roles in the two chambers’ appropriations committees and subcommittees.

Democrats have criticized this approach, stating it forces them to make an “all-or-nothing” decision on a budget package they have not had an opportunity to help develop.

"I'm unaware of any instance in modern North Carolina history where the state budget was amended via a process that did not allow for committee consideration, committee amendments and floor amendments," House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) wrote to House budget leaders via email this week, according to media reports. "I hope the rumors are not true."

However, Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) stated to reporters, "This bill will be heard in a committee, so they'll have time to express how they feel at that point as well, and the process is still in the works. We'll be glad to sit down with any of them at any time to discuss any issues that are important to them."

The House's chief budget writer, Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), said Wednesday that he expects the conference report serving as the budget bill will be released "sometime late this weekend."

Dollar also said the House and Senate Appropriations committees will jointly meet on Tuesday morning, May 29, to discuss the conference report. If this proposed timeline holds as outlined, the state budget could be adopted by June 1, a full month ahead of the new fiscal year’s start, and be sent to the Governor, who then will have 10 days to either veto, sign or let it become law without his signature.

The North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA) has been meeting with budget writers and leaders from both chambers since conclusion of the legislative special session in February to advocate on budget priorities for public schools. Our major focus has been seeking an additional state investment in base pay for all principals and extending the salary hold-harmless protections that would otherwise expire on June 30.

NCASA will share the education and salary-related portions of the state budget as soon as those details are made public.

Jacqueline Wyatt for NCASA