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Originally published: 2014-06-16 17:21:38
Last modified: 2014-06-16 17:22:22

N.C. House passes budget bill

by Anna Oakes

The N.C. House of Representatives on Friday voted 77-35 to approve a $21.1 billion state budget bill for fiscal year 2014-15.

As the N.C. Senate did in late May, the House spent fewer than two days debating the bill as a full body before taking to it to a vote. Legislators tended to fall in line with their parties in voting for against the budget, with most Republicans voting for the bill and most Democrats against, but there were some exceptions.

Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson, a Republican, cast his vote for the bill.

The House and Senate will now form a conference committee to begin this week deliberating over a compromise budget -- not an easy task with two vastly different spending plans.

The House budget aligns more closely with Gov. Pat McCrory's public school spending plan than that of the Senate; it increases starting pay for entry-level teachers to $33,000 and would offer an average 5 percent raise to teachers. The Senate budget offered an 11 percent pay increase to teachers, but only if they agreed to give up their tenure status.

While the Senate budget proposed to implement teacher pay increases in part by cutting second- and third-grade teacher assistant positions, the House budget proposal aims to foot the bill with increased lottery revenue achieved by amplified advertising efforts.

State employees -- including University of North Carolina system faculty -- would receive a $1,000 increase in annual salary. The Senate budget awarded $809 annual increases to state employees, but excluded UNC faculty and administrators.

The House budget did not make changes to Medicaid eligibility; the Senate version would cut approximately 15,000 elderly, disabled and blind patients from the state Medicaid rolls. The House proposal would establish a $117.8 million state risk reserve for the Medicaid program, which has experienced cost overruns in recent years.