As legislators continue to file appropriation bills - expansions on last year's state budget - revenue news continues to be bleak in the halls of the General Assembly.
Legislators were informed this week that the budget deficit currently sits at $271 million, a 25% higher number than when the 2015-2016 legislative session gaveled in early January. However, nothing is final with the $21 billion budget revenue picture until April 16 or 17th when the late income tax filers pay tax bills (postmarked by April 15) to the state and all revenue is calculated.
In the meantime, Governor Pat McCrory is taking a stab at a budget proposal based on current revenue projections and will get it over to the General Assembly, possibly within the month. The NC House will respond with its proposal sometime in April and then on to the NC Senate, which will likely come in May.
Expect some streamlining, also known as cuts, to balance the budget in all three spending plans in the 1%-3% range, mainly by not filling personnel vacancies. While $270 million is gobs of money to this writer, it's important to know that it's just a few percentage points in the grand scheme of the state budget.
The chambers have until June 30 at midnight to reach a final budget compromise or else the state prison doors open because the state shuts down. Just kidding about the prison doors, but talk about a possible motive to get the budget done.
Most political observers, myself included, expect the Governor and the NC House to offer similar budgets with pay raises for state employees, including those working in public schools, to be modest yet equitable. We'll see where the Senate comes out.
I also expect the Governor to make his mayoral budget mark by addressing buildings and maintenance in his spending plan, something he's often mentioned as a peeve in his public comments. I get the sense the Governor misses the relatively new Charlotte downtown compared to the aged downtown buildings comprising state government.
Interest groups and lobbyists continue to file into 8:30AM appropriation committee hearings in the Legislative Office Building - ranging from education, health and human services, justice and public safety and more - and hear revenue projections and spending reports from last year's budget.
If you have legislation pending before the appropriations committees in the House and Senate this session, our lobbying team encourages you to file those taxes, think twice about taking the deductions, and make your check out to the 'State of North Carolina' today.