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NC House of Representatives releases state budget proposal

The N.C. House of Representatives finalized its proposal for a $20.6 billion 2014-15 budget last Friday. The N.C. Senate, which released its own proposal earlier this month, quickly and unanimously rejected the House proposal on Monday.

Gov. Pat McCrory presented his budget last month.

UNC-system President Tom Ross has praised both the N.C. Senate and House proposals for not piling additional budget cuts on the UNC system.

“The proposed 2014-15 state budget adopted today by the N.C. House demonstrates strong and positive support for some key University priorities,” he said in a statement.

He criticized McCrory’s proposal for an additional 2 percent system-wide budget reduction — almost $56 million.

All three proposals include base salary increases for state employees, including the UNC system’s. Both the N.C. House and McCrory proposed an increase of $1,000. The N.C. Senate proposed $809.

But the proposals sharply differ on K-12 education policy, with the N.C. House’s plan to use lottery earnings to fund teacher salary increases at the center of controversy.

The (Raleigh) News and Observer reported it obtained a fiscal memo, sent to legislative staffers before the House voted on its budget, projecting lottery earnings at $59 million — compared to $106 million estimated in the budget.

Van Denton, director of communications for the N.C. Education Lottery, confirmed the numbers reported by The (Raleigh) News and Observer are correct.

Denton said his office is waiting on clearance from the state attorney general’s office to publicly release the memo.

“We intend to release the requested information,” he said in an emailed statement. “However, we have been advised by the Speaker’s General Counsel to hold the release pending further review by the attorney general’s office whether the requested records are deemed confidential pursuant to Chapter 120 of the General Statutes.”

The N.C. House passed a 5 percent average pay raise for K-12 teachers, compared to the Senate’s 11.2 percent average and McCrory’s 2 to 4.3 percent average, depending on experience. K-12 teachers have been under a pay freeze for five of the past six years.

Rodney Ellis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, said he disagrees with using lottery earnings to fund teacher pay and instead, the state should end tax breaks to the wealthy.

“I don’t believe we’re making the right choice in terms of basically gambling or depending on proceeds from gambling to fund teacher salaries,” he said.

Rodney perceives a disconnect between the House and the Senate on a number of issues, he said.

“They’re apparently not on the same page,” he said. “It’s highly likely that you’ll see no final budget passed, and we’ll be stuck right where we are now.”

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