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CJ reports: NCGA General Fund budget $24 billion, $500 million less than governor’s

Carolina Journal‘s Dan Way reports:

Republican legislative leaders have reached agreement on a 2019-20 General Fund budget cap of slightly more than $24 billion, shaving about $500 million from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed spending plan. (See Editor’s note at end of this story.)

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, made the announcement Tuesday, March 19. They agreed to a 3.45 percent increase in spending over last year’s budget total. Cooper proposed raising spending 5.4 percent.

Berger and Moore issued a joint statement after reaching the agreement.

“Responsible Republican budgeting has led to a boom decade for North Carolina. We don’t intend to change the formula that’s balanced our budget, provided revenue surpluses and record savings, lowered taxes for 99 percent of taxpayers, and resulted in more North Carolinians working than at any time in history,” they said.

With the topline figure settled, House and Senate budget writers will fill in the details in the coming weeks, the news release said. The nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division estimated revenues will total $24.8 billion next year.

The $24 billion budget figure does not include payments for the state’s debt service, which will come from the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund.

The budget agreement is in line with state spending deals approved by Republican legislators this decade to limit spending growth while prioritizing new money for education. GOP leaders have tried to keep growth levels below anticipated increases in population and inflation.

Berger and Moore noted in their statement the National Education Association issued a report this week showing North Carolina jumped ahead of 18 states in average teacher pay over the last five years. Teachers received five consecutive pay raises, representing the third-highest increase in the entire country.

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