60 days overdue, progress being made on state budget

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The North Carolina General Assembly (WTVD)

Governor Pat McCrory says progress is being made on the state budget, now more than 60 days overdue.

McCrory said he's been trying to facilitate discussions between the House and the Senate, which have some very different ideas of how to allocate money throughout state government.

"I've actually been very involved facilitating two groups who are often times in disagreement," said McCrory. "I frankly thought it should have been resolved many months ago."

But in a handful of cases, the disagreements between the two sides have been rooted in their fundamental ideology.

On Medicaid, which has since been taken out of the budget to help facilitate negotiations, the Senate wants to create a new, separate agency called the Department of Medicaid under a plan created by insurance companies.

The House wants to leave it in the Department of Health and Human Services where it is now and let doctors and hospitals come up with the parameters.

On sales tax distribution, the Senate wants to redistribute more state money to rural counties and shift it away from the more populated, urban areas. The House does not.

The governor has pushed bond proposals and the House has been generally supportive but the Senate has not.

But out of all the sticking points, education may be the most notable.

The Senate wants to trade teachers' assistants for smaller class sizes. Some school districts have pushed back that they couldn't accommodate smaller classes if the Senate gets that provision.

The Senate wants to do away with driver's education being taught in school. The House, meanwhile, wants to keep the existing basic structure intact.

The Governor comes down much more closely allied with the house.

"I'm an advocate," McCrory told reporters after Tuesday's Council of State meeting, "especially now that we have budget money, for Drivers Ed. I think we need to come to a resolution on that."

"And teachers' assistants, I've presented a case for letting the superintendents and principals make that determination. Provide the money to them and let them make their own determinations in based on each individual school's needs."

"That decision doesn't need to be made in Raleigh," the Governor said. "It should be made by superintendents and principals across the state."

And recent statements by key lawmakers suggest the Senate could move in the House's direction.

Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Madison Co.) told ABC11 late last week that he expected the final agreement to cover the current costs of teacher's assistants.

"School boards now have the ability to fund all those positions. We've said what we're going to spend in education. It will ultimately cover those numbers that they're looking for teachers and teachers' assistants, I believe that."

McCrory also said he thinks lawmakers will reach a deal before the current temporary budget runs out on September 18th. "We've got a continuing resolution until mid-September and I'm confident we can have a budget between now and then."

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