The Senate approved its proposed budget this week, clearing the way for negotiations to begin on the final plan. Their $20 billion proposal cuts both the income tax on the highest wage-earners and the sales tax by a quarter percent and spends $263 million less than the House proposal. It would provide no money for Medicaid relief to the counties, while the House has suggested giving the counties $100 million. The Senate plan would also spend $82 million less than the House for health and human services and decrease the reserve fund allocation by $133 million. The University of North Carolina system would get $60 million more, but community colleges would get $8 million less than what the House proposed. Teachers, community college faculty, and university employees would get 5 percent raises - the same as the House proposed - but state employees would get a 4 percent raise, a quarter-percent less than what was proposed in the House plan.
The Senate budget eliminates funding for farmland preservation, at a time when we are losing farmland at the fastest rate in the country (the House had proposed $8million, the first significant funding in years). It also drastically cuts proposed funding for an emergency drinking water fund that provides resources for testing, notification, and access to clean drinking water for low income communities with contaminated water.
It eliminates funding for dropout prevention, a top priority of our House leadership. The budget provides substantially less funding for removing folks from the waiting list for child care subsidy. And it provides much less funding for disadvantaged students.
The Senate proposes borrowing $1.2 billion, without a vote of the public, to pay for about 30 construction projects. That's nearly three times more than the House proposed borrowing.
Budget negotiators in the House and the Senate will begin meeting soon to work out the differences in the plans, and I hope to be part of this process. The intention is to have the spending plan in place by July 1, 2007, the beginning of the next fiscal year.