For some folks the season is the middle of spring. Others see it as the Stanley Cup playoff season, or graduation season.
But in local and state governments this is budget season.
Greensboro City Manager David Parrish will present the manager’s budget at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 21. Unless the City Council completely changes its modus operandi, the City Council will meet a few times, decide to give more money to a couple of nonprofits and pass the budget. But politics is full of surprises, it is possible that this year the City Council will take more than a passing interest in its own budget which means it will probably raise taxes.
Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing will present his budget to the Board of Commissioners on Thursday May 16 and no matter how much money is awarded to Guilford County Schools, the schools will demand more.
But this year the budget to watch is the state budget in Raleigh. Every odd year the state passes a two year budget and they come back in even years and make adjustments. The state House has already presented its budget and now it’s time for the state Senate to come up with its version. Then the two bodies have to get together and devise a budget that can pass in the House and Senate.
This year is entirely different from when the current state budget was passed two years ago. In 2017 Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was in office, but the Republicans had veto proof majorities in the state House and Senate. In the 2018 elections the Republicans maintained majorities in the House and Senate but lost their veto proof majorities.
Just like at the county level where you can count on the Guilford County Schools demanding more money, at the state level whatever the Republicans in the General Assembly finally pass, you can count on Cooper to veto.
From a political standpoint he’d be foolish not to veto it. The state spends a total of about $57 billion a year and about $24 billion is in the general fund most of the rest is federal money. Even the Republicans who vote for the budget can find some part of it they don’t like.
For Cooper it’s a chance for him to establish that he is a force to be reckoned with in Raleigh and to push for Medicaid expansion which the Democrats see as a winning issue for them.
And this is where it could get sticky. The Republicans will either have to appease Cooper or peel off enough Democratic votes to override Cooper’s veto. Peeling off some Democratic votes might prove to be the easier course. In a budget of $24 billion, a couple hundred thousand dollars isn’t much, but it’s a lot to some smaller communities. The opportunity for legislators to bring some unexpected state funding their home districts can be a powerful incentive.
And the Republicans just received some ammunition for their fiscal policy of reducing taxes, a report that the current revenue figures show a $700 million surplus. Cooper predicted the last round of Republican budget cuts would result in a $600 million shortfall.
It seems like it would be hard to argue with policies that cut taxes and produce more revenue, but those arguments will be made repeatedly in Raleigh in the coming weeks.
Fortunately, for the citizens of North Carolina, if the Democrats and Republicans can’t reach an agreement, the state government doesn’t shut down. It continues to operate under the current budget until they can pass a new one. But that means that any raises for state employees including teachers won’t go into effect until a new budget is passed, just another factor that has to be considered.
There are a lot of moving pieces down in Raleigh this year and it’s worth watching to see where they all end up.