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N.C. Opinions: Greensboro

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Bounced check budget

From an editorial in the Greensboro News & Record on Wednesday:

The state House spending plan hit the Senate like a rubber check Monday. It bounced right back.

The 41-page budget modification bill approved unanimously by the House last week was a scaled-down, stop-gap version of a 2014-15 proposed budget that previously weighed in at 275 pages. It was meant primarily to provide pay raises for teachers and other state employees while the two chambers continue to negotiate other details. The new fiscal year began Tuesday with no agreement.

Senators didn’t think much of the House’s Budget Lite, which had been unveiled by Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Gov. Pat McCrory. It bounced for insufficient funds to cover Medicaid costs, Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, adding its estimates were $200 million to $300 million too low.

McCrory disagreed Tuesday, accusing Senate leaders of preventing senators from voting on the plan. Now, a General Assembly “short” session that should have ended by now will continue on.

The budget deadline isn’t a big deal. The budget wasn’t approved last year until July 24. Because that was a two-year budget, no action is technically required. State government can continue spending at the same level it did for the past year.

Failing to act, however, would leave teachers without a pay raise for another year. It would leave the Department of Environment and Natural Resources without additional inspectors to police coal ash ponds. And it would leave veterans and their dependents without tuition assistance.

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