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NC Democrats blast budget delays as Republicans negotiate among themselves

House Democratic Leader Robert Reives, right, joined other House Democrats and Attorney General Josh Stein for a news conference Wednesday criticizing Republican budget delays.
Colin Campbell
/
WUNC
House Democratic Leader Robert Reives, right, joined other House Democrats and Attorney General Josh Stein for a news conference Wednesday criticizing Republican budget delays.

Republican legislative leaders still haven’t reached an agreement on a new state budget for the fiscal year that began this month. Democrats are criticizing the delay.

Late budgets are nothing new in North Carolina. But in recent years, the delays stemmed from negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. This year, the GOP has a veto-proof majority and doesn’t need support from Democrats. But House and Senate Republicans can't agree on the size of tax cuts and spending projects.

Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln is one of the House budget writers. He says it could be mid-August before the legislature sends a budget to Gov. Roy Cooper.

"This is the legislative process," Saine said. "It's what's happened in the past — you know, to get to a good agreement, sometimes it's better to wait."

That means teachers and other state workers don’t know what raises to expect. And agency leaders don’t know how much money they’ll have to spend. Rep. Julie von Haefen, D-Wake, says it’s a big problem as the school year begins amid a teacher shortage.

"Would you accept a contract to start a job with an undefined salary?" she said at a news conference Wednesday. "That is exactly what Republicans are asking our teachers to do at this point."

Medicaid expansion is also on hold until there's a deal, because the bill that passed it earlier this year kept it from taking effect until a budget is enacted.

House Democratic Leader Robert Reives, D-Chatham, said Republicans should separate expansion and the areas of disagreement from the overall spending plan to speed up the process.

"If you want to address tax cuts in a separate bill, you've got every right and every ability to do so," he said. "It's just like if we were holding up everything because we want to rename a river."

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.