Senate, McCrory OK state government funds until budget done

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A stop-gap spending measure to keep North Carolina state government operating for the next six weeks won final approval and was signed into law Tuesday, one day before the start of the new budget year.

The state Senate approved the continuing spending plan 43-0 a day after the same temporary fix passed the House 107-1. Gov. Pat McCrory signed it within hours, spokesman Josh Ellis said.

The legislation authorizes state spending until lawmakers can finish negotiations on a broader budget blueprint for the next two years. The continuation budget keeps government funding at current levels except for areas where the chambers have already agreed to identical cuts in their spending proposals.

Just one senator offered her observations on the new mid-August budget deadline to work out a final budget deal.

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, chided Republicans who have previously boasted that they would promptly pass budgets in time for the start of each new fiscal year in contrast to the decades of Democratic Party control when negotiations commonly continued into mid-summer.

The House and Senate disagree on whether to continue offering driver’s education classes to teenage students and whether to sharply cut the number of teacher’s assistants. The competing budget plans are about $300 million apart on funding for classroom assistants, with the Senate aiming to shift funds to hiring more teachers in kindergarten through third grade.

“The school systems don’t understand or don’t know what their real allocation is,” Robinson said. “They’re really just taking a chance right now.”

The stop-gap measure allows local school districts the flexibility to move money around and hire teacher’s assistants if they choose. The continuation budget spends $100 million more to pay for expected public school enrollment growth so that school districts can hire teachers and staff in August. The legislation also raises the minimum teacher salary from $33,000 to $35,000, keeping promises McCrory and legislative leaders have made.

The extended spending plan expires at midnight Aug. 14.

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Emery P. Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio

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