GOP leaders agree on $20.6 billion NC budget

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 21, 2013 at 9:08 pm •  Published: July 21, 2013
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Leaders in the North Carolina House and Senate announced Sunday that they have reached agreement on a $20.6 billion budget that will end teacher tenure and allow taxpayer money to be spent for private school tuition.

Highlights of the budget negotiated by the Republican majority were issued in a news release. The actual appropriations bill was not expected to be made available to the public until late Sunday night.

Both chambers have previously passed their own spending plans, but Republican leaders wrangled for weeks to come to a consensus even as the July 1 start of the 2013-2014 fiscal year came and went.

Republicans took over the General Assembly in 2010 for the first time in more than a century, but did not cement full control of state government until GOP Gov. Pat McCrory took office in January.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the compromise budget in the coming week.

The budget increases overall state spending by 2.5 percent while instituting tax cuts for corporations and individuals. The plan scraps the longstanding teacher tenure system in favor of employing educators on contracts that are renewed based on performance reviews. The budget would also allow families that meet income guidelines to get state money to pay private school tuition starting in 2014.

"Republicans in the General Assembly have produced a state budget that reduces taxes and right-sizes state government," said House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), according to the release. "This budget is another crucial step in putting North Carolina's fiscal house in order."

State spending on Medicaid is increased by $1.5 billion to cover what Republicans term as cost overruns. A special provision would allow the McCrory administration to develop a Medicaid reform plan in the coming months.

The budget also supports McCrory's plan for overhauling the North Carolina Highway Trust Fund, which prioritizes and pays for transportation infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.

The plan restores funding that had been previously cut for 69 positions within the State Highway Patrol, as well as another 22 magistrates and 175 probation and parole officers.

The budget meets the state's obligation to fund the state retirement system and state health plan, while providing state employees with 5 additional days of leave. The release makes no mention of any raise for state employees, whose salaries have remained largely stagnant for years.

The release also said living victims of a state-sponsored eugenics program that ended in the 1970s will receive a one-time compensation payment, but it did not say how much that payment will be.

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