Legislators are working behind closed doors as they continue to try to hammer out a budget that was due to take effect 66 days ago.
Rumblings around Raleigh don’t bode well for progress in completion of the fiscal 2015-16 budget, but leaders announced that they will work through the Labor Day weekend in an effort to produce at least a draft common-ground appropriations bill by next week.
Among the few points known to be worked out by the two bodies are the price tag of $21.7 billion and a $750 bonus for state employees and teachers.
Policy issues inserted into the Senate version of the budget are still a thorn of contention between the two chambers. And a provision inserted into the shallow draft dredging portion of the budget during negotiations also has drawn fire for the lack of transparency and cost.
In 2013, four proposed jetties were provided for but now, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, wants to give other areas of the state the option. None of the earlier proposed jetties has been built.
Funding of teacher assistants is still up in the air. The Senate, which had proposed to eliminate about three-quarters of the positions statewide, agreed to continue funding the positions, but with the caveat that the money could not be spent by school systems for any other purpose.
House members disagree and say that there shouldn’t be strings attached and that the school systems know where the money is most needed and will have the most impact.
There has been little stand-alone legislation moving through the two chambers, but the House has refused to approve a Senate substitute bill. House Bill 373 will now go to conference committee to work on possibly moving all primaries to March.
Legislators want to move the presidential primary to March in an effort to make the state “more relevant” in deciding which candidates are on the fall ballot. Originally, the presidential primary was going to be moved back to February, but the Republican National Committee threatened to remove 60 North Carolina delegates from the convention, which would leave only 12 delegates representing the state’s Republicans.
Splitting the presidential from the general primary which is held in May would cost counties an estimated $9.5 million in additional funds. Discussions in conference committee are expected to center around moving the general primary back to March instead of separating the two.
HB 117, NC Competes, is still in conference committee after the House refused to accept Senate changes inserted into the bill that , if made into law, would redistribute sales tax revenues.
The proposed redistribution would allocate 50 percent based on population and 50 percent based on point-of-sale collections. If made into law, the new distribution formula would reduce sales tax coming back to Dare County and the local municipalities by 24 percent. Under current law, which dictates that 75 percent of the sales tax sent back to local governments is based on point-of-sale and 25 percent on population, Dare County is estimated to receive $19.1 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Under the new plan, the amount would be reduced to $14.6 million, which is a $4.6 million cut — unless the proposal to expand the sales tax base is approved.
An expansion of the sales tax base, adding tax on such things as auto repairs and veterinarian bills, would return some of the lost revenue to counties. With that proposed expansion, estimated sales tax revenues would be $15.1 million which is a $4 million reduction – 21 percent – from projections for the same time frame under current law.
The municipalities also would feel the same percentage of reductions under both scenarios.
(Sandy Semans is a retired newspaper editor and reporter who now works as a free-lance writer. She lives in Stumpy Point. Her update on the goings-on in this session of the General Assembly will appear weekly in The Island Free Press, usually on Friday.)
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