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Budgets Take Forever, Right?

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By Stephen, on June 3, 2011

Few things happen quickly at the Legislature.  Debates on seemingly noncontroversial bills can last for hours on the House floor.  Committee meetings are hardly ever short, even when there are only a few bills to discuss.  And above all else, budgets take forever to pass.

Or so it used to be.

NC House Chamber
NC House Chamber

First a little North Carolina budget 101:

Typically, the budget cycle starts with the Governor introducing his or her budget in February or March.  The goal is to finish everything off by the start of the new fiscal year, July 1.  The legislature will convene in early February with either the House or Senate taking the first shot at producing a budget, alternating every biennium.  After each chamber passes its own distinct version of the budget, a Conference Committee is appointed which hammers out an agreement acceptable to enough voters in both chambers.  The last three long sessions extended at least a month into the new fiscal year, with the last on-time adoption coming nearly a decade ago in 2003.

With a complete shift to Republican control of the legislature, a Democratic Governor looking to position herself for reelection in 2012, and the once-a-decade issue of redistricting also looming, I was certain that this year would be no different.

Speaker Thom Tillis and Phil Berger, President pro tem of the Senate, appear exceptionally eager to prove me wrong.  And they just might do it.

NC General Assembly
NC General Assembly

As I write, the House and Senate have already passed their separate versions of the budget.  But in a deft time-saving move, both chambers worked out their differences prior to the adoption of the Senate’s version yesterday, removing the need for a Conference Committee.  The budget moves to the House today with final approval slated for the wee hours Saturday morning.  Due to the rules adopted in the House at the start of the legislative year, the House will be forced to approve the budget in two separate votes on separate days.  Thus legislators will vote today and again at 12:01am tomorrow morning.

With a super majority of Republicans in the Senate and the help of 5 Democrats in the House, the budget has enough support to override a veto from Governor Bev Perdue.  Given the ten days allotted to the Governor to either sign or veto the legislation, it appears that the Legislature will be out of session by June 17th, nearly two weeks before the new fiscal year.

That’s one pig I never thought I’d see fly.

Check back next week when I take a more detailed analysis of the budget.

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