Budget Writers Working, But End Not In Sight Yet
Budget writers in the General Assembly are moving forward with their negotiations, but it's still not clear when they might finish putting together a spending plan adjustment for the fiscal year that has already begun.
In an open conference committee Tuesday afternoon, legislators didn't reach an agreement on the size of teacher raises, though Senate budget writers have agreed to allow teachers to receive raises without forgoing career status protections.
"We are moving along every day as we said there are subcommittees that are meeting jointly and we have a process we will have some more public meetings another public meeting tomorrow at 10 o' clock that the House will lead off and chair," said Representative Nelson Dollar, the House appropriations chair.
Local school district leaders say they support large raises, but that the Senate's plan comes with a hefty cost by cutting thousands of teaching assistants.
The Senate plan would offer an average 11 percent raise and cut funding for teaching assistants in second and third grades. The House plan would offer an average five percent raise, but keep teacher assistants in place.
David Neter, chief business officer for Wake County Schools, says the Senate plan would cut about 700 of the 1200 teaching assistants in the school district.
"I've even heard from a few teachers that would say 'Keep my salary where it is, don't take my teaching assistant with me,' and that's after effectively five or six years, with all intents and purposes, of no salary increase," he said.
Lottery money also remains a big issue - the House budget increases the lottery's advertising budget, but at the same time places restrictions on how it can be publicized. Republican Senator Harry Brown said lawmakers need to figure out whether that will be part of a joint budget agreement.
“I just think it's important we settle this difference so we can move on because again it's just we're talking about right at 30 million dollars we've gotta come together at some time,” Brown said.
It's estimated that the lottery's advertising budget would produce 30 million extra dollars.
Budget writers have already agreed on projected Medicaid shortfall numbers, previously a stumbling block in negotiations.