NC Senate expected to give final approval on revised state budget Wednesday

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — Senate lawmakers will take their first vote today on the revised state budget, which comes with raises for teachers and state employees.

Teachers would get about a three percent raise this fall, but can expect an almost 10 percent raise over the next two years. Gov. Cooper said the budget doesn’t go far enough though.

Also included in the budget is funding to fight the growing opioid epidemic across the state.

Lawmakers want to put some money behind their efforts to fight opioid addiction and the crisis that health officials say has taken over the state.

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Officials have proposed giving $1.2 million for the next two years towards a database used to record and report on opioid issues.

The money would be used to develop and create more advanced software for the current North Carolina Controlled Substance Reporting System, which the state’s public health officials use.

The statewide system identifies people who misuse prescription drugs and it helps physicians know when people may be abusing opioids.

The information from that database should be used to improve opioid prescribing, identify unusual prescribing patterns, and find behavior that’s tied to opioid misuse, addiction and/or criminal activity.

There’s also millions of dollars tied to North Carolina community health programs and treatments for those dealing with opioid addiction.

Another item in the budget will give security detail to House and Senate leadership should the North Carolina Speaker and/or Senate Pro Tempore request it for a time while they’re conducting state business.

In the proposed $23 billion budget, it also includes funding to create executive security detail for Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

Lt. Gov. Forest travels often across the Tar Heel State as part of his duties as lieutenant governor and officials want to make sure he is protected. After the recent shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Republican staffers, and Capitol Hill police at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, there’s been an increased discussion surrounding public officials’ need for more security.

If passed, Lt. Gov. Forest would get three North Carolina State Highway Patrol officers and protected vehicles would be assigned to him. The protection detail would also serve Forest’s immediate family.

The executive security detail funding and team would go into effect immediately once the budget is passed.

Gov. Cooper on Tuesday said the budget, overall, is the “most fiscally irresponsible” he’s ever seen.

Despite that, the measure looks on track to reach his desk before the week’s end.

The Senate is expected to give its final approval on Wednesday to the two-year spending plan negotiated by General Assembly Republicans, a day after the chamber gave it tentative approval. The House scheduled its two required votes for Wednesday and Thursday.

Gov. Cooper will have decide whether to veto the measure he’s already criticized for spending too little on public education and for cutting income taxes again for the wealthy and corporations. But Republicans point out nearly everyone — including low- and middle-income people — would pay less in taxes under the bill.

Not all Democrats agree with Gov. Cooper — four Democratic senators joined Republicans on Tuesday in voting for the measure.

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