RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The first comprehensive state budget for North Carolina in three years is one step closer to reality after the Senate overwhelmingly passed the proposal in its final vote.
The 41-7 decision sent Senate Bill 105 to the House, which voted 104-10 in favor of the budget. A final House vote will happen Thursday, then the bill will head to Gov. Roy Cooper, who has already signaled he will sign the bill.
"It's a budget that we desperately need at this unique time in the history of our state," Cooper said of the $25.9 billion spending plan. "Too many important investments in the budget are overdue."
A state budget is perhaps the most important responsibility of state government: how to spend billions of dollars in taxes.
Indeed, the budget funds every function of government from corrections to education to health care to transportation and more in the fiscal year. That fiscal year, moreover, starts July 1, which underscores the cost of the political gamesmanship that delayed the passage of a budget until the week before Thanksgiving.
As such, budget writers explained that once the Governor signs the budget, the State Treasurer and the Office of State Budget and Management will handle the transfer of funds from the state's coffers to the appropriate accounts. Specific projects, whether it's broadband investments or infrastructure, will have specific mechanisms for appropriations.
When it comes to salaries, including teachers, the raises included in the budget are retroactive to July 1, the start of the fiscal year. Paying out what's owed, however, will take time, and with only a few weeks before the end of the tax year, there will be discussions about whether to include the bonuses in time for this year's W-2 or next year's.
Regardless, officials told ABC11 that state employees and teachers due raises and bonuses will see that money by the end of January.
Cooper indicated that he could sign the budget as early as Friday. Cooper, now in his fifth year as North Carolina's Chief Executive, has actually never signed a budget; he vetoed budgets in 2017 and again in 2019. In 2017, however, GOP supermajorities in the General Assembly negated Cooper's leverage as both chambers voted to override the veto.
The dynamics changed in 2018 when Democrats broke those supermajorities in the midterm elections, though the two sides failed to reach a compromise, forcing lawmakers to pass several "mini budgets" instead of a comprehensive deal. Those measures, while funding several government programs, never touched teacher pay or education spending as a whole.
The lack of a budget for the last three years weighed heavily on Cooper's decision to support the compromise, especially when it came to education funding.
"However imperfect this budget is, our schools, communities, small businesses and families need help now, especially as we recover from this pandemic," Cooper said.
The 647-page 2021 Appropriations Act, more formally known as Senate Bill 105, is worth $25.9 billion.
The Republican-led General Assembly unveiled its budget proposal Monday after more than two months of negotiations with Cooper and other Democratic lawmakers.
Republican leaders said they were confident Cooper would sign off on the bill, saying it was the culmination of months of "hard work and good-faith negotiations."