Tuesday, 10 September 2019 14:38

N.C. lawmakers introduce four new mini-budgets

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RALEIGH — The General Assembly is continuing its push to pass mini-budgets as the stalemate over Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the General Fund budget continues into another month.


Cooper vetoed the $24 billion budget bill June 28, primarily because the budget plan lacked provision to expand Medicaid. House Republicans have so far been unable to garner enough votes to override the veto, yet the veto override remains on the House calendar.

In the meantime, Republicans have opted to pass mini-budgets to ease some of the stress over the lack of a full budget. A few of these piecemeal budgets have already passed, including one to draw down federal dollars and another to give raises to State Highway Patrol officers.

Cooper vetoed House Bill 555 on Aug. 30. H.B. 555 would have provided money for Medicaid transformation, but Cooper rejected the measure.

“Passing mini-funding bills that simply divvy up the vetoed Republican budget is a tactic to avoid a comprehensive budget that provides for health care and other important needs like education,” Cooper said in his veto message.

Despite complaints from Cooper over the piecemeal budgets, Republicans are moving forward with the approach.

Four new mini-budgets were introduced Tuesday, Sept. 10, as proposed committee substitutes in the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In the House Appropriations Committee, Republican lawmakers introduced two PCS providing money for prison-safety initiatives and disaster recovery.

“Senate Bill 429 is essentially the disaster relief package that was included in the original disaster relief package in the budget bill,” Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said. “To my knowledge, the whole set of provisions were non-controversial then and hopefully are non-controversial now. They are the same projects and the same money.”

The PCS to Senate Bill 429 transfers more than $94 million from the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Reserve in the General Fund to the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund. Under the bill, $17 million will revert back from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as reimbursement for composting programs to the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund. About $2 million will be allocated for a pilot program providing flood insurance for low-income households.

McGrady said he anticipates another disaster relief bill after damage assessments from Hurricane Dorian are completed.

Like the PCS to S.B 429, the PCS to Senate Bill 118 takes language directly from the vetoed budget and includes more than $4 million in nonrecurring funds for listed prison-safety expenditures.

“This simply moves forward the language out of the budget and makes it possible to begin purchasing and working through the plans to improve prison safety,” Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, said.

Faircloth said the bill also initiates the prison-reform report, which is due Nov. 1. The report requires the Department of Public Safety to keep track of how a number of reform initiatives are coming along.

The new versions of S.B. 429 and S.B. 118 passed the House Appropriations Committee and head to the House Rules Committee.

On the Senate side, lawmakers introduced PCS to House Bill 29 and House Bill 75 during the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting.

The PCS to H.B. 29 provides $6 million for the next two years to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits.

The PCS to H.B. 75 provides $68 million for school-safety grants and $9 million for school resource officers. Additionally, the PCS extends report deadlines for some of the grants and other school safety initiatives. 

H.B. 29 and H.B. 75 passed with little discussion from committee members.