This week action focused on piecemeal budget bills with local targets and one major budget item, pay for teachers. The legislature keeps passing bills to allow various businesses to open during the pandemic, and the governor continues to veto them. The Senate passed a bill to allow people to carry guns to church services held in schools and a bill that would allow local areas to hold July 4 parades and other activities in spite of the restrictions the governor has ordered for the pandemic.
Normally during a short session the budget passed during the long session is tweaked, and funding for a few local projects is passed. Budgets passed by the General Assembly cover a two-year period. This year the situation is much more complicated because last year the governor vetoed the budget bill backed by Republicans and no substitute budget bill was ever passed. Instead we are operating by using the level of funding contained in the previous budget supplemented by a series of “mini budget” passed last session that funded certain departments or items. This is no way to run a state.
Teachers have been especially hard hit by the budget fiasco. Last year teachers did not receive any pay raise on top of their step increases because of the budget impasse. The stand-alone bill that passed this week provides for a $350 bonus for teachers , but no pay raise, on top of step increases. The Senate Republicans and the Governor disagree whether federal coronavirus funds could be used to provide an additional $600. Cafeteria workers and other non-certified school personnel received no pay raises. Due to a procedural maneuver by the Senate, the bill passed the House with no amendments or debate. For more information, see: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article243604842.html
Democrats complain that handling the budget bit by bit denies them an overview of the budget as a whole. Not being able to see the big picture makes it difficult to see how the pieces fit together or to envision the big picture of the state’s revenues and expenditures. Republicans counter that state income taxes, like federal income taxes, aren’t due until July 15, A serious budget shortfall is projected, but there is disagreement about how large it will be. The Senate floor debate of the teachers’ pay bill was a continuation of the budget fight of 2019 and centered on raises for teachers and expansion of Medicaid. The legislature will have to come back, probably some time in July, to deal with budget shortfalls.
See the summary and the list of bills we’re tracking at NC NOW Legislative Report.22June2020.v2