Senate tries to speed up budget negotiations as CR deadline approaches

Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham)

Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham)

RALEIGH – With the expiration of the continuing resolution looming next week, Senate Republicans made an effort to jump-start slow budget negotiations with an announcement that they will take the Medicaid, sales tax and economic development policy provisions out of their budget, after the House and Governor objected to them being wrapped into the Senate proposal.

“We have heard that the policy portions of the Senate budget are an impediment to progress,” said Senate Pro Temp Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) in a press conference this afternoon. “We have taken those concerns and are prepared at this point to pull out the economic development provisions and the Medicaid provisions. We are going to run separate bills on those.”

However, the quid pro quo is that the Senate is challenging House budget negotiators, led by chief budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), to stick to a $21.65 billion spending target. The House’s proposed budget spends just over $22 billion.

“We encourage our colleagues in the House, particularly those on the appropriations committee and Chairman Nelson Dollar, to work with us on that compromise number,” said Berger. “$21.65 is that number. It’s what fiscal researchers says the budget should be, the governor says the budget should be, and we are calling on the House folks to come to that number as well.”

According to the Office of State Budget and Management, $21.65 billion covers the combined growth of 2.7 percent this fiscal year. Negotiations started back in June over the Senate’s budget, which spends $21.5 billion but contained a Medicaid reform plan, sales tax redistribution, and a corporate incentive package, and the House’s plan that spends $22 billion, but does not contain policy initiatives. The fiscal year ended June 30 with a $445 million surplus, but the continuing resolution now expires August 14 – the end of next week.