The North Carolina House has passed a budget proposal tweaking the two-year spending plan passed during the long legislative session last year.
Now, it’s the North Carolina Senate’s turn to produce a budget. From there work will begin in committee meetings to nail down the final product that will make its way to the desk of Governor Pat McCrory.
This year’s House budget passed through the chamber with more bipartisan support than we have been used to in recent years.
“Because they felt they wanted to get behind the state employees and teacher raises that were included in the budget and because they believed that the raises that the House offered are going to be more generous than what the Senate is likely to offer,” local representative Graig Meyer reasoned as to why more Democrats supported this year’s budget proposal.
Meyer, however, was one of 12 Democrats who voted against the budget. He said the proposal, even with the salary bumps, “doesn’t go far enough toward what we really need to improve the state’s economy and take care of our state employees.”
Meyer said “there was a lot more that could’ve been done” in terms of raises and investments in other areas, including mental health care, but the House chose instead to put the remaining dollars into a reserve fund. That reserve fund would be at a record $1.4 billion with the additional $300 million from this year’s surplus, according to chief House budget writer Nelson Dollar.
“My biggest concern about the budget was that the Republicans put in place an arbitrary cap on spending before even deciding what we needed to spend money on,” Meyer said referring to the agreement from early May that the budget proposals would not exceed $22.225 billion.
Meyer added the tax regimen put in place by Republicans in recent years is not providing the state with enough funds to “pay for things that we need to do for North Carolina.”
Meyer offered an amendment during the budget process to reinstate the estate tax on estates worth more than $5.4 million that would have impacted “fewer than 100 North Carolinians,” the legislator said, while bringing in $60 million in tax revenue. That amendment failed.
Meyer said, while he had issues with the budget, there were some areas he was pleased with. He said he was happy to see state employees and teachers get a raise, while adding “I wish it was more.” He also said he was happy to see a greater investment in mental health care.
The House budget proposal also called for the removal of the cap on light-rail spending, which could revive hopes for the Orange-Durham Light Rail project.
Meyer said that provision would likely come down to being used as a bargaining chip during the process to finalize a compromise between the House and Senate on a final budget.
Listen to the entire interview with Meyer below: