North Carolina lawmakers work through holiday on budget

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Lawmakers have been working this Labor Day weekend to hammer out a state budget that's already two months overdue and two weeks away from their September 18 extended deadline.

"I think by the end of the week we ought to have a budget for us to take action on next week," said Speaker of the House Tim Moore.

The House was in session Monday afternoon for all of maybe two minutes. It adjourned almost as soon as it convened, but Speaker Moore said meetings are ongoing scattered throughout the legislative building.

Watch: Empty house for Monday house session

For months, Senate and House lawmakers have been arguing over how to allocate money within the $21 billion budget. One of the big sticking points is education, mainly teaching assistants and drivers education.

The Senate's version initially would have slashed teaching assistant jobs in exchange for smaller class sizes and cut driver's education. The House's version would have kept the existing basic structure intact.

"We continue to support having teaching assistants in the classroom, they are a few fine points to discuss, but I'd say we're close," said Speaker Moore.

Outside of that statement, he was not ready to give specifics. Initially the Senate's version of the budget wanted to slash teaching assistant jobs and also would only say that driver's education is still being discussed.

Other points of contention that have kept lawmakers busy during the past two months are disagreements over Medicaid and sales tax distribution.

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.

The House will reconvene Tuesday as will the Senate. Speaker Moore said he hopes to have a progress report on the budget by Wednesday or Thursday then said that under house rules it has to sit for 72 hours before they can take a vote.

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