Officials in North Carolina’s House of Representatives are expected to release a budget draft late Monday after negotiations stalled with their colleagues on the Senate side. Hinting at the cross-chamber breakdown in negotiations, Senate leaders have slammed the anticipated House proposal as an ‘ill-advised departure’ from conservative budgeting.

The General Assembly’s short session is primarily focused on making budget adjustments, but with less than two weeks before the end of the fiscal year, the two chambers have not yet delivered an adjusted spending plan. Notably, a projected surplus this year and next, means there are competing ideas on just how the money should be spent. 

Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told the Carolina Journal that the House is not only overspending, but also using funds from reserve accounts to fund non-essential projects.  

“Senate Republicans considered the proposals from the House, and they all spend entirely too much,” Sen. Berger said in an email. 

With more than twice as many members in the House than in the Senate, more hands are trying to reach into the cookie jar. In addition to this year’s surplus, the House’s proposed budget adjustments utilize reserve funds, intended to be a backup for essential actions. 

The General Assembly has created multiple reserve funds since 2020, in addition to the primary savings reserve, “Rainy Day Fund.”

“House offers take hundreds of millions of dollars from state reserves to spend on non-essential items,” Berger added. “Reserve funds should be used for emergencies like natural disasters, unexpected cost overruns, and possible economic slowdowns, not for expanding government or funding pet projects. If included in this year’s short session budget adjustments, those offers would represent an ill-advised departure from our sound, conservative budgeting practices.”

The House proposal is expected to be revealed late Monday.

SEE ALSO: NCGA allocates billions for opaque “Reserve Funds”

Brian Balfour, Senior Vice President of Research for the John Locke Foundation, explained that it’s not unusual for one chamber to introduce its proposed budget adjustments first to initiate the negotiating process between the two chambers.

With critical seats up for grabs in this year’s election, including the Speaker of the House, the temptation for pork-barrel spending to “bring home the bacon” is high. Though negotiations have not yielded any budget agreement thus far, the introduction of the House proposal should generate momentum to restart discussions between the chambers.

“We’re still working through this. This is Plan B on the budget,” said House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, last week. “But while we’ve not been able to reach an agreement with the Senate, we’re tired of waiting, and we’re going to move on and get a budget done.”

Moore said that members should anticipate that a budget bill drafted by the chairs of the Appropriations Committee will be filed and made public sometime Monday night. House Republicans are expected to caucus late Monday with votes planned for Wednesday and Thursday. 

Importantly, budget adjustments are not required by law during short sessions. If an agreement is not achieved, the biennial budget passed last fall will simply stand as is, which provides a 3% pay raise for most non-teacher state personnel for fiscal year 2024-2025.