Governor weighs in as chambers stack their teams

legbuildingRALEIGH – Just hours before the Senate announced that it will appoint all 32 members who voted for the Senate budget to the Budget Conference Committee, Gov. Pat McCrory made a stop in both House and Senate Republican caucuses today urging legislators to keep lines of communications open.

johnbell“He wanted to give us some insight and be clear on his priorities. Hopefully by the end of all this we will be on the same page and give the state a good strong budget,” said House Majority Whip John Bell (R-District 10).

The visits came after yesterday’s announcement that a bipartisan group of 82 House members were appointed to the conference committee.  Even before the Senate’s 32 were added to the list, the House principal clerk’s office said that this is the largest Budget Conference Committee in “recent history,” or at least 30 years.

The two chambers presented very different budgets earlier in the session. The House spends $22 billion, which is more than the Senate’s $21 billion, but made key investments in industrial recruitment incentives and education, including across-the-board pay raises for teachers and all state employees.

The House also left Medicaid reform in a separate piece of legislation. The Senate incorporated Medicaid reform in its budget, changed how sales tax revenues would be distributed, increased the state’s Rainy Day Fund, and limited raises to entry-level teachers and some other state employees. The differences indicate that negotiations will last well into the fall, but opinions are divided on how the sheer volume of conferees will affect the process.

“It shows strength, it shows we are serious about getting it done,” said Bell. “Ours was a strong bipartisan budget, very popular and widely accepted. Even though everyone didn’t [get] everything they wanted, we were satisfied with the process.”

How the crowd will be organized has not been announced, but insiders say the heavy lift will fall to the big budget chairs. One thing is for sure: they will definitely need a bigger room.