The Senate’s Republican leader and top budget writer said Wednesday, May 8, he hopes that chamber’s work on the General Fund budget will be done by the end of May. The House passed a $23.9-billion plan last week.

Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, told reporters the budget committees will begin work next week, The Insider reported. To meet the end-of-month deadline, floor votes on the budget would have to place immediately after Memorial Day.

The Senate will have more revenue to work with than the either chamber anticipated when the House budget passed. A report released Monday from the legislature’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division said tax collections were much higher than expected. The exact projections aren’t final, but some lawmakers estimated a windfall of as much as $700 million.

Brown and his two Budget Committee co-chairmen said Tuesday the surplus shows the Republicans’ conservative fiscal approach had worked. Gov. Roy Cooper’s Budget Director Charlie Perusse had predicted tax cuts enacted last year over Cooper’s veto would lead to a $600 million deficit.

“It’s clear that responsible Republican budget policies have created a boom decade for North Carolina, despite Governor Cooper’s vetoes. His administration has predicted catastrophe from Republican budgets in the past, and I’m sure this year will bring more of the same. But the reality shows just how little credibility Governor Cooper has on this issue,” Brown, Sen. Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston, and Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, said in a statement.

Joe Colletti, a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation who specializes in fiscal policy, said that the windfall, along with money left in the House budget which wasn’t set aside for specific programs, will give the Senate more than $1 billion in unassigned funding.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, on Tuesday told Spectrum News’ “Capital Tonight” his goal is to divide the money between funding “reasonable growth” in the budget, setting some aside in Rainy Day Fund savings, and returning some to taxpayers.