RALEIGH — Republican leaders of the N.C. General Assembly said Wednesday they want Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue to sign their state budget adjustment plan into law soon so local governments, schools and businesses have more certainty with plans for the coming year.
N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger and N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis gave their perspective on the $20.2 billion budget adjustment bill now on Perdue’s desk. She has until Sunday night to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without her signature. The new fiscal year also begins Sunday, but a two-year budget is already in place.
Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, told reporters that cities, counties and education systems “are going to have to make worst case assumptions about their budget” if the proposed adjustments aren’t soon in place.
The GOP pair said they disagreed with Perdue’s request last week that legislators find another $100 million to spend, with most going to the public schools. They said the money would have had to come from the state’s reserves to pay for any Medicaid overruns next year.
“We are willing to work with the governor on a number of things but we do not think her suggestion of taking the money from savings reserve ... is an appropriate way to move forward,” said Berger, R-Rockingham.
Perdue said Tuesday she wanted legislators to find more money for the public schools but wouldn’t say whether she’d veto the bill if they refused. Perdue vetoed the two-year budget in 2011, but Republicans overrode it with the help of five House Democrats.
Perdue and other Democrats have said overall K-12 spending has been reduced by $189 million compared to the current year when the loss of federal education jobs money is taking into account. But Republicans counter their budget provides an additional $255 million for K-12.
Perdue’s office released details Wednesday of her $100 million request. She wanted $75 million to reduce further the amount of cuts that school districts must make next year; $10 million to expand the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program; $5 million to pay living victims of the state’s defunct sterilization program and funds to hire more probation officers and tap into federal election money.
The House tentatively agreed Wednesday evening in favor of a budget cleanup bill that alters portions of the bill on Perdue’s desk but didn’t specifically address the governor’s concerns.
The measure made a change to ensure school districts receive more flexibility on where they make about $360 million in cumulative cuts. It also attempts to place a one-year delay on new and higher ferry routes, even though the final budget proposal directs the Department of Transportation to begin collecting immediately nearly all the tolls that were supposed to begin in the spring.
Perdue had issued an executive order to delay collecting the tolls, but legislators said she didn’t have the authority to do that.
The cleanup bill, which also would have to be approved by the Senate, does direct the Department of Administration to spend $129,000 next year to keep funding a state-sponsored foundation designed to assist victims of the state’s forced sterilization program.
Operating funds for the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation are slated to go away this weekend because lawmakers failed to agree on a House bill that would have spent $11 million, a small portion of which would have kept a renamed foundation operating.