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Senate ties budget fix to commerce and local tax bill

RALEIGH A budget fix that school districts desperately want that will allow them to go this year without cutting teacher assistant jobs passed the state Senate on Thursday night.

But the Senate has tied the budget fix to a bill the House doesn’t want, a measure that creates a new incentive fund for the Department of Commerce to use to lure businesses.

The budget fix and the business incentives are in separate bills, but the budget correction is triggered only if the incentive bill becomes law.

“We want to see both happen, and we don’t want to wait around until next week to see it happen,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, Senate Rules Committee chairman.

The incentives bill also limits local governments’ ability to levy extra sales taxes.

The Senate has pushed hard for the bill creating the new incentives program, and it’s something Gov. Pat McCrory also wants.

But the House has been skeptical of the Job Catalyst Fund, a program to be controlled by the commerce secretary. The budget set aside $20 million for the fund.

The House failed to agree to the bill earlier this summer.

“You’re playing political games,” said Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat, “You’re saying to the House, ‘You have to fire TAs or put up with our bad bill.’”

The budget fix for teacher assistants passed 34-6.

The legislature still has not formally adjourned its short session, though members have not worked full time this month.

House Speaker Thom Tillis said he’d spoken to the Senate about the incentives and budget-fix bills but was not certain what the House will do with them.

Both the House and Senate meet Friday.

The Senate also passed three alternative adjournment resolutions.

One resolution would have the legislature end its business this year and not return until next year.

The second resolution would have the legislature leave until November, when members would come back to consider a Medicaid overhaul.

The third alternative would have members leave until November, when they could return to consider Medicaid, bills connected to lawsuits, and confirmation of special Superior Court judges. The third alternative would also allow legislators to consider bills on which negotiators are trying to work out a compromise, which would put proposals for closing coal ash disposal sites back in play.

Senate leader Phil Berger said the third option, the measure allowing the legislature to consider coal ash regulation and Medicaid, was the preferred bill.

Legislators started the session this spring saying that regulations for cleaning up coal ash dumps were a priority, but the House and Senate failed to agree on an approach. The Senate formally rejected the House proposal Thursday night.

Bonner: 919-829-4821; Twitter: @Lynn_Bonner
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