The General Assembly on Wednesday approved a measure allowing state government to continue spending money through the end of the month while budget writers from both chambers continue to hammer out a compromise.
With little discussion — aside from House Republicans ruling an amendment from Democratic Leader Larry Hall of Durham funding teacher assistants out of order — the House approved Senate Bill 560 by a 113-2 vote and sent the measure to the Senate. Then a number of senators stood to complain about the tardiness of the state budget. The new fiscal year began July 1.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the Senate Rules Committee Chairman, rose to oppose the resolution.
“I can’t vote for this,” Apodaca said. “Schools are starting next week. … Other people in this building” — referring to House members — “don’t seem to care.”
Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, fired a verbal shot at Republicans, noting that they have supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. He said if Democrats were in charge of the budget, Republicans “would be lined up 10-foot-deep calling us irresponsible.”
Not to be outdone, Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, noted returning home during some long budget sessions when Democrats had majorities. “My son said to my wife, that man’s back again,” Rucho said.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said that he too was frustrated, but failing to approve the temporary budget resolution would solve nothing.
Sarah Curry, director of fiscal policy studies at the John Locke Foundation, said that North Carolina is one of four states that have opened their current fiscal years without a permanent budget in place. The other three are New Hampshire, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Alabama hasn’t passed a new budget, but its fiscal year begins in October.
Using temporary measures for budget authority at the beginning of a fiscal year has become the rule rather than the exception in state government.
Since 1986, the General Assembly has approved a budget before the new fiscal year began only six times — in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2010, and 2011, according to a chart on the Web page of Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson.
The measure passed Wednesday, along with the first continuing resolution passed in June, allows several provisions adopted by the House and Senate versions of the budget to take effect, such as eliminating vacant positions in state government and increasing the minimum pay for starting K-12 teachers to $35,000 a year.
The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.
Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.