NC Senate gives final OK to budget deal

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 17, 2015

RALEIGH (AP) — The North Carolina state budget deal negotiated by Republicans got some Democratic votes before it cleared the Senate on Wednesday.

Three rural-area Democrats joined Republicans in giving the two-year spending plan their final approval by a vote of 37-13.

Tuesday’s preliminary vote fell strictly along party lines, but Sens. Ben Clark, D-Hoke; Jane Smith, D-Robeson; and Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton, switched their “no” votes to “yes.”

None of them spoke during Wednesday’s brief debate, although Smith-Ingram said on the floor Tuesday that while there were many things she liked in the budget, she hadn’t had time to read it completely. Democrats had complained Tuesday of the quick turnaround: The actual text and related “money report” was made public late Monday.

The 429-page budget bill also contains a new sales tax arrangement that aims to direct more funds to dozens of small or rural counties.

The House was expected to hold their two required votes on the compromise Thursday evening and early Friday. The bill’s ultimate stop would be the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory, who would be asked to sign the bill quickly before a stopgap spending measure expires Friday.

McCrory, a Republican, told The Associated Press last weekend he was concerned about sales tax changes, particularly the expansion of the items subject to the tax to cover repairs, maintenance and installations. He and a small business group considered the expansion a tax increase.

The North Carolina chapter of conservative-leaning Americans for Prosperity praised the budget Wednesday, particularly for other tax reductions and for what it considers restrained government spending. State Director Donald Bryson said while the group had reservations about the sales tax changes, it was pleased with the refusal of lawmakers to extend renewable energy tax credits beyond this year.

The North Carolina Justice Center, which advocates for the poor, urged supporters Wednesday to call on McCrory to veto the bill because of “fiscally irresponsible” tax cuts and the failure of lawmakers to spend more on education, affordable housing and infrastructure.