photo credit: PK289 // Shutterstock
Its time to come up with a new state budget for the next 2 years and it seems the Democrats and Republicans are still looking for common ground.
The Senate Republicans have released the two-year budget plans that includes raises for state employees, but does not support the expansion on Medicaid, something Gov. Roy Cooper has made a central focus recently. The budget also includes a $24 billion spending plan that calls for an average 3.5 percent average raise for teachers over the next two years, which is below both what the House and Cooper proposed. It also includes $300 for each teacher to spend on school supplies. A similar proposal has faced criticism from the North Carolina Association of Educators, which has said the General Assembly has not funded education adequately, leading to teachers buying their own supplies.
Full time state employees would also receive a 5% raise over two years, more than the House and Cooper proposed.
The spending plan calls for $3 million to go toward the testing of sexual assault evidence kits in an effort to clear the statewide backlog. Last year, just over 15,000 of those kits remained untested. Some communities, such as Durham, have worked to clear their individual backlogs since then.
Monika Johnson-Hostler, executive director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said getting the funding in place is critical because the backlog is a nationwide issue. While there is no federal mandate on tracking the evidence kits, the Joyful Heart Foundation, which has launched a campaign to end the backlog, estimates there are hundreds of thousands of them across the country.
Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) said because the budget proposal does not expand Medicaid or provide what he views as enough spending on education, he’ll vote no.
“We have to sit down together with Senate Democrats and the governor and Senate Republicans to find a solution that works for all of North Carolina. And, I’m not going to vote for a budget that does not include Medicaid expansion,” he said.
A negotiated budget is expected to be sent to Gov. Cooper by June 15th.
If state leaders are unable to reach an agreement, a continuing resolution would take effect keeping state funding at its current levels until a budget is finalized.
Written by Clarke Jones