Legislators reach bipartisan budget agreement

Published 10:57 am Friday, June 3, 2011

RALEIGH – State lawmakers reached a bipartisan budget agreement Tuesday that cuts taxes, reduces government spending by more than $1 billion, paves the way for thousands of new jobs, and makes important reforms to public education.

The announcement was made in a joint press release issued by Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the NC Senate, and Thom Tillis, Speaker of the NC House of Representatives.

The bipartisan compromise is a $19.6 billion budget that adds about $240 million more than the original Senate version to public education, funds all teaching assistants and classroom teachers, provides for more than 1,100 additional teachers in grades 1 through 3 to begin reducing classroom size, and develops a performance pay program for teachers and state employees.

The budget returns more than $800 million to the pockets of North Carolinians by ending Democrats’ “temporary” sales and income tax hike, and keeps a $50,000 tax exemption for small businesses – the backbone of North Carolina’s struggling economy.  Economists say the budget could create tens of thousands of new private-sector jobs in the next few years.

“I’m proud of the willingness of our members to reach across the aisle to craft a bipartisan budget,” said Berger (R-Rockingham).  “This compromise will fuel job growth, reform education, cut waste and bureaucracy, and avoid a government shutdown.  We have met the governor more than halfway, and we encourage her to support the compromise.”

The State Bureau of Investigation will remain under the Attorney General’s authority in the new compromise.  It also includes a fix to retroactively extend unemployment benefits to 37,000 North Carolinians.

“This bipartisan solution is a big first step toward right-sizing state government,” said Tillis (R-Mecklenburg). “This budget is a job-creating budget that incorporates one of the largest tax cuts in North Carolina history.  I applaud the members of the House and Senate for working so closely together throughout the budget process.”

The Senate was expected to vote on the budget Wednesday and Thursday.