“We’ve dealt with a lot of those tough issues in the budget, so it’s taken awhile,” Speaker of the House Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a press conference.
“But I believe we’ve got a very good work product at the end that our colleagues will support and will benefit the citizens of this state.”
The new $21.7 billion budget increases spending by 3.1 percent.
It includes preserving teacher assistant positions and driver’s education programs for two years, and it increases educational funding — for the UNC-system alone, there is a $99 million increase.
Funding will come from an expanded sales tax, though lawmakers have also decreased the income tax.
Moore said he feels confident they have enough votes to pass the budget in the House, but Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, isn’t happy about it.
Before the budget was released Monday, Insko said cuts to mental health services — which she called a basic service and a government responsibility — was one part of the budget she was not pleased with.
“We have cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of (mental health services), so we have more and more people that are ending up in jail and prison instead of getting treatment for mental illness,” she said.
Insko said the erratic process of creating the budget — which happened mainly behind closed doors — left her and many other legislators from both parties in the dark.
“I mean, that’s always been an issue, decisions made behind closed doors, but I’ve never seen this kind of lack of transparency,” Insko said.
But during the press conference, Moore said transparency and openness to input from the public and fellow members were highlighted throughout the process.
He also said it extended the already lengthy process.
“We’ve tried to air a lot of these provisions out there and make sure there’s been ample opportunity for public discussion, to make sure members have been informed,” Moore said.
“A necessary part of that is that it takes longer to get that information out there.”
The state has been running on a continuing resolution because the new fiscal year began July 1 and no budget had been passed.
Andrew Taylor, political science professor at N.C. State University, said while it is not uncommon for a state legislature to extend its budget deadline, this year’s extension has been longer than usual.
“We have a Republican governor (and) Republican majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly,” Taylor said.
“So you would suspect that a lot of the wrangling that would lead to a delayed budget would be because people are dealing with each other across party lines, which of course isn’t the case here.”
The House of Representatives will vote on the budget Thursday and Friday — giving the public and the governor the required three days to review it — while the Senate will vote tomorrow.
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the General Assembly did well putting the budget together, despite having to deal with many long-term issues.
“I don’t think anybody ended up with any black eyes,” Berger said.