• Expert: State budget stalemate taking a toll

    By: Jim Bradley


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Backroom budget talks are underway in Raleigh but no one is saying if there's any progress.

    The House and Gov. Pat McCrory are still at odds with the Senate over how much to spend on teacher raises.

    Eyewitness News reporter Jim Bradley is following the negotiations and the growing tension.

    Sources said that talks went on through the weekend and are continuing Monday night but that some of the key players are still at odds.

    That leaves the budget talks at a stalemate, teachers hoping for a pay raise in limbo and the governor -- who said last week he wouldn’t compromise -- in a potentially tough spot.

    Legislators are back in Raleigh but after weeks of negotiations over teacher pay raises, the stalemate between the state House and Senate continues.

    Political experts said it's taking its toll.

     “This dragging out of where they need to be and what they need to be doing really is starting to raise some eyebrows,” said Michael Bitzer, a political expert.

    The inability of state House and Senate leaders to find common ground on teacher pay and Medicaid cuts comes just weeks before teachers go back to school.

    The last official offer from state senators late last week was for an 8 percent raise for teachers but cuts to teacher assistants.

    The House, which has offered 6 percent raises, has yet to officially respond and even on Monday, the governor, who's been backing the House plan, insisted he won't support a compromise.

    “I've already stated,” McCrory said. “I will not accept cutting teacher assistants.”

    McCrory has no vote on the budget but has threatened a veto of the Senate's budget plan and Senate leaders continue to be frustrated by the governor's stance.

    “The executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch are equal parts and shouldn't be bullied by any of the others,” said Sen. Bob Rucho (Mecklenburg – R)

    If legislators eventually find their way to a compromise, McCrory's bully pulpit could be risky.

    “Remember in both chambers, Republicans have super majorities,” Bitzer said. “So they could very easily override his vetoes and that would potentially send a signal that he is indeed a weakened governor.”

    The governor, House and Senate leaders all have a lot riding on this budget deal but some capitol watchers are beginning to wonder if anyone is willing to compromise enough to work a deal.

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