- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Senate Republicans tried Wednesday to thaw North Carolina budget talks with the House a week before a temporary spending extension expires by reshuffling positions and boosting what they’re willing to spend this year.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said his chamber would separate their ideas on overhauling Medicaid and changing economic recruitment incentives from budget negotiations.

House counterparts and Gov. Pat McCrory have criticized the Senate for failing to put those provisions in bills separate from the budget because they were both heavy on policy. That’s what Berger says they’ll now do. Senators scheduled Thursday morning committee meetings to consider Medicaid and incentives legislation.

“It is our hope and our expectation that by doing that we remove what has been represented to us as an impediment to our moving forward with the budget,” Berger told reporters.

A two-year spending plan was supposed to be approved by July 1. Lawmakers approved a temporary spending measure that expires Aug. 14.

Berger also said senators are now willing to spend $180 million more this year than what its plan originally proposed. It’s still $500 million short of what the House budget spent, or $22.2 billion. Berger said the new proposal would be in line with a year-over-year increase equal to population growth and inflation.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, senior co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the Senate made positive movements Wednesday but other policy items remain in the Senate budget.

Dollar also said the House budget is trying to catch up on significant budget trimming required during the recession.

“We’ll need to make a little more progress in those areas in order to ensure that we are covering the needs of the state,” Dollar said.

Dollar suggested it was highly unlikely the chambers could reach a final agreement by Aug. 14. Berger raised hope it could be done with an agreed-upon spending level.


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