The N.C. House and Senate voted Wednesday to spend at least two more weeks crafting a final budget.
Their original deadline was July 1st, which is when the fiscal year began. Lawmakers had extended the deadline until Friday, but the two chambers still haven’t resolved differences over how much money to spend and where to spend it.
On Wednesday, House and Senate lawmakers passed a temporary budget bill – also known as ‘continuing resolution’ – that would keep the state running until August 31st.
"Our focus right now is on continuing our negotiations between the House and the Senate and hopefully arrive at a result that will serve well the citizens of North Carolina," said Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), the budget's lead writer.
Many local school officials have complained that the budget delays have made it difficult for them to properly plan for the upcoming year. Without state funds, they argue that it’s unclear how many teachers they’ll be able to hire or if they’ll have to lay off teacher assistants.
The Senate budget calls for reducing class sizes in K-3 by cutting funding for teacher assistants, the equivalent of up to 8,500 positions. The extra money would be used to hire about 2,000 teachers. Meanwhile, the House’s plan would keep funding for TAs at current levels.
"Many of the local school systems can't hire their TAs," said Democratic leader Larry Hall from Durham. "They're not ensured they'll have the money. They need some way to know that they can actually hire and give them a contract."
The two chambers also disagree on whether to continue funding driver’s education or even require it.
It’s not unusual for lawmakers to work on the budget past the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1st. Last year, the legislature wrapped up its work in August as lawmakers were at odds over teacher assistant funding and teacher pay. As of now, this year's budget vote will likely be the latest since 2002.
The continuing resolution now heads to Gov. Pat McCrory.