State legislators continue to debate a bleak revenue picture this week as they try to protect the state?s superior bond rating.
A House proposal also indicates a large tuition increase for out-of-state students in UNC-system schools.
The Senate budget proposal indicated a 9 percent tuition increase for all students, but House budget writers submitted an amendment that would increase out-of-state student tuition by 15 percent. This proposal would raise $24 million, but without any in-state student tuition increase.
Several legislators strongly disapprove of this measure, however.
?That is an unreasonable tuition increase,? said Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange, co-chairman of the Senate conferees. ?We?re at a high level of out-of-state tuition as it is.?
But some students may not have enough time to prepare for the large out-of-state tuition increase, with the fall semester beginning in mid-August.
?It sets a horrible precedent,? said UNC Student Body President Justin Young. ?The timing is inappropriate. They?ve left no time for students or their families to prepare for this type of increase.?
But Lee says the tuition increase could be delayed until the spring, however.
?When passing a late budget, it has been our procedure in the past to look at the feasibility of delaying tuition increases,? Lee said. ?We should give them that lead time by not implementing it until the second semester.?
But legislators say nothing can be certain until they figure out exactly how much revenue can be raised.
?The House has indicated they are considering some revenue increases,? said Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford. ?So we are really waiting to see what the availability of money will be.?
Last week, the House approved three tax-loophole closings that would raise $61 million in revenue. An optional local-government one-cent tax increase also continues to be discussed in the House. The proposed increase could raise as much as $700 million in the next two years. Legislators also worry that the state?s Triple-A bond rating could be in jeopardy. Last Friday, Moody?s Investor Service revised North Carolina?s outlook to negative and indicated they would update the state?s credit rating when a new budget is enacted. If the state falls to a Double-A rating, it could lose $300 million, because it would have to pay higher-interest loans. ?The Senate stands by its commitment to protect our investments in education and to strengthen our economy,? said Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare. ?Of course, being placed on credit watch is cause for concern ? but it also proves that we truly cannot afford to enact a budget that allows our state to just squeak by until next year.? Legislators will have to ensure that all money is accounted for and there is a solid source of revenue.
?We?re going to have to show that we have some permanent streams of money coming in that we don?t have to juggle around,? said Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenberg. ?We don?t want to have to rob Peter to pay Paul.?
But time continues to be a factor in the budget-making process. Legislators passed another continuing resolution that will keep the state operating until July 30. But some think it may take longer. ?We still have a long way to go,? Earle said. ?It seems like the budget situation changes daily. It?s kind of hard to hit a moving target.?
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.