Budget Update 06-24-05
Speaker Jim Black appointed House members to the House Budget Conference Committee on Tuesday. Conferees were assigned to specific subcommittees, which will work on issues such as education, health and human services, economic and natural resources, justice and public safety, general government, and transportation. Freshmen were not appointed to the Conference Committee, with the exception of our Chair.
Legislative leaders and members of the conference committee met with Governor Mike Easley on Tuesday morning to discuss their shared goals in reaching an agreement on the budget as soon as possible, which makes the needed investments in the education of our children and the health care of our citizens and those most in need. Meanwhile, House and Senate leaders have been meeting privately and publicly to try to move the budget negotiations forward. Conferees met on Wednesday afternoon to receive their spending targets for the agencies overseen by each subcommittee. Conference committee chairmen and leadership decided to split the difference between overall House and Senate spending levels for agencies and programs to begin the negotiations.
On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees approved their own version of a continuing resolution that allows state government to continue operating after the new fiscal year begins July 1, 2005. The House approved its version two weeks ago. The major differences, which must be resolved by June 30, 2005, include making the extension of the one-half cent sales tax, currently set to expire June 30, 2005, permanent, whereas the House extended it for two years. The House also extends the one-half percent surcharge on the wealthiest income owners for two years, whereas the Senate lets that sunset. The House feels that if we are going to extend the one-half cent sales tax (which hits the poorest the hardest), it is only fair to extend the surcharge on the wealthiest.
House and Senate members are expected to continue their work and discussions through the weekend.