Budget writers in the North Carolina House of Representatives are putting their finishing touches on their $21 billion budget proposal.
On Thursday, the public got a sense of where the Republican leaders want to spend the money as committees met to discuss the budget.
A big change is the fact that the state is now projecting a $400 million budget surplus, not a shortfall as previously forecasted.
The question is what the state will do with that money.
Among many items, House Republicans are talking about giving state employees a raise and putting more funding into K-12 education, including textbook funding.
“I think it would be very hard for a state employee to understand not getting an increase after so many years of not keeping up with the cost of living in a year where the governor has announce we’re doing great,” said Ardis Watkins, direct of government relations for the State Employees Association of North Carolina.
“It’s a different process because we’ve never had any money before,” said Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Republican from Johnston County. “We were always trying to see who we could cut and now we have at least a little money and we’re trying to do better in those areas that we cut.”
Some of the items being discussed in committees:
· $50 million for textbooks and digital resources
· More than $26 million for drivers education
· Using $89 million in state revenues, instead of using lottery funds, for teachers’ assistants
But Rep. Larry Hall, the House minority leader, raised some concerns.
“It’s a projection. It’s not real money,” Hall said. “If it does come to pass that there’s more revenue, we know who paid it – the poor citizens of North Carolina paid it. The citizens who needed it the most were denied it.”
Several Democrats made the point that the $400 million is just a projection.
The House is expected to release its complete proposal early next week.