- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The odds seem better that a final North Carolina state budget will be voted on by the General Assembly next week.

A two-year spending plan should have been in place almost 2½ months ago, but House and Senate Republicans got tripped up on a number of fronts. A third temporary spending measure that directs how to run North Carolina government in the meantime expires Sept. 18. Gov. Pat McCrory would be asked to sign any final budget into law.

Here’s the latest on what’s happening at the Legislative Building on the delayed budget:

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BUDGET TIMELIME

Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, told colleagues on the House floor that “significant progress” on negotiations had been made, as he and Senate leader Phil Berger met until late Tuesday night whittling down the chambers’ differences.

House Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, also affirmed recent headway and predicted a final, tentative deal could be completed Friday. Although Brown cautioned there could be a snag, he said “there’s a lot of momentum right now.”

Actual budget documents still would have to be drawn up. Combined with House rules that a final budget bill must sit for three days, Moore said the House could hold its two required budget votes Sept. 16 and 17. Brown said Senate votes also would come next week.

It’s cost almost $2 million more to operate the ongoing General Assembly session since July 1 than if lawmakers had finished their work and adjourned by that date.

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TAX CUTS?

House and Senate Republicans also have made inroads on tax law changes, according to Brown and Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, the House Rules Committee chairman. Legislative leaders had lamented the lack of progress Tuesday to work out tax reductions designed in part to cancel out proposed Division of Motor Vehicles fee increases.

“We are trying to maximize the amount of money we can allow the people to keep,” Lewis said.

Completing a tax plan isn’t essential to passing the budget, however, meaning it could be dealt with later before the General Assembly adjourns the session.

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COASTAL CONCESSION

Brown said one issue worked out in budget negotiations will increase the number of man-made structures allowed along the coast and designed to control erosion from the current four to six.

The decision to increase the number of authorized coastal jetties is linked with a plan to generate more money for coastal dredging from a portion of the state gasoline tax. The original tentative agreement would have eliminated the cap on jetties altogether.

A 2011 law setting the limit of four had ended a 25-year ban on the structures. While four beach communities currently are seeking jetties, none have yet been built. Environmentalists say using jetties are expensive and simply move erosion elsewhere.

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FILM FLAP?

Word late Tuesday that negotiators had tentatively agreed to give $30 million annually to the state’s film production grant program has angered a group adamantly opposed to targeted tax incentives.

The program, which last year replaced a more expensive film tax credit, received $10 million in the last fiscal year. The House proposed $40 million annually, while the Senate wanted it kept at $10 million. The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity called the appropriation a “Hollywood handout” and urged email recipients to oppose the spending.

“In lean times for families and small businesses, handing hard-earned tax dollars to Hollywood film executives is reprehensible and irresponsible,” group spokesman Joseph Kyzer said in a release.

Film industry supporters argue movies, TV series and commercials generate jobs that make grant payments a net positive for the state. Film boosters blamed the loss of the tax credit program for keeping productions out of the state.

With the $30 million, “I think we can now say that North Carolina’s film industry is officially back open for business,” said Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover.

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