After one of the longest sessions held in its history, the General Assembly adjourned until April. The legislature was able to accomplish some important things during the long session, but one item still has yet to pass: the state’s budget for 2020-2021.
The General Assembly has two sessions — the long session and the short session. During the long session, legislators are able to write and propose bills on any topic, but they are also obligated to write the state’s budget. The short session is designed to be a time where legislators can make adjustments and amend issues in the budget, or alter bills passed in the long session.
During this past long session, the General Assembly was unable to pass a budget. N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-District 50, said the earliest the budget can be passed is April 28, unless the governor calls a special session.
“Right now, there are not any ongoing negotiations,” Meyer said.
Because of a law passed in 2017, the state government will continue to operate using current funding levels without a new budget. However, there cannot be any pay increases for state employees and the priorities from the previous year stay the same for the following year.
“There’s been no reset or change to those funding levels,” Meyer said. “All of the non-recurring items are not funded until the budget is passed.”
Non-recurring funds include items the state government takes over in the short term — such as grant funds for schools and nonprofits — that Meyer said are not being addressed due to the lack of a budget.
N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-District 56, said the last session was the longest in North Carolina history.
“Our 2019 session actually ran over into 2020,” Insko said. “We didn’t pass the budget. We didn’t pass Medicaid expansion. We didn’t cut taxes.”
Insko also said after the multiple budget readings with the governor and the leaders of the House and Senate, there was still no compromise.
“There are things that can get passed in the House. The House is more moderate than the Senate,” Insko said. “A lot of things didn’t get passed just because the Senate — the Republicans — are more small-government, private-sector owned orientation.”
UNC hosted an event called “Esse Quam Videri,” where former North Carolina governors Jim Hunt, James Martin and Pat McCrory spoke about issues currently before the General Assembly. McCrory, a Republican, said that despite what past governors have said, it is untrue that the state has a balanced budget.
“Every politician in North Carolina, every governor in North Carolina, says we have a balanced budget,” McCrory said. "No, we don’t."
McCrory said he is concerned about North Carolina's unfunded future liabilities, for items such as health care and pensions for state employees. These liabilities McCrory referred to are financed through the state's General Fund budget. He said both Republicans and Democrats alike are responsible for making sure the budget is balanced for North Carolina’s citizens.
Meyer said compromise is necessary for approving a budget for the 2020-2021 year. He said if the two sides cannot come together to agree on a budget, then there will not be any adjustments made to the budget. This means there would be no budget at all.
“There’s a relatively limited number of things we are allowed to do in a short session, but making revisions to the budget is the number one thing,” Meyer said.
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