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North Carolina lawmakers anticipate more than $3 billion budget shortfall

FILE - The North Carolina state flag (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)
FILE - The North Carolina state flag (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)
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State lawmakers are scheduled to head back for another short session on Monday, facing an expected 15-20 percent deficit -- roughly $3- $4 billion -- for next year’s budget, said Rep. Josh Dobson.

“I hope at least part of the COVID-19, or at least part of the money that has been sent to us from the federal government, can be used for that purpose, but at the same time we still have a lot of needs when it comes to COVID-19,” said Dobson.

He says lawmakers are in a holding pattern and are waiting on the federal government to see what the money can be used for.

“There are a lot of needs. I mean, education and healthcare are at the top of that list,” said Dobson.

When it comes to education, Henderson County Schools Chairman of the Board announced capital projects have already been put on hold.

“I know that money is being appropriated within the last bill that we did for some of those areas, where it can’t necessarily be spent in hopes that those guidelines will be changed, and we will be able to spend it,” said Rep. Brian Turner, another House member.

Turner said the House would push the federal government to ease up on some of those guidelines.

If they don’t change, that money will have to be used somewhere else and quickly.

Turner says in some instances, the money must be used by the end of the year.

“This is something that’s happening to states across the country, where they’re realizing that given the tightness of the guidelines, they may not actually be able to spend all the money being made available to them, which would cause a lot of problems because there’s a tremendous need out there,” said Turner.

This comes at a time when lawmakers are thinking of their own finances. They couldn’t come together to pass a budget last year, something they both hope is different this time around.

We’ve shown a high level of bipartisanship with the COVID-19 bill that passed the House, passed the Senate, and was signed by the governor. My hope and my expectation is that we can build on that to continue to work together to get a budget to the governor that he can sign, but your point is well taken, and there’s no guarantees there,” he said. “My view is, if we work together on the front end, we won’t have those problems on the back end, so that’s what I’m going to do, and hopefully we can get this thing done.”

“It’s really incumbent upon the leadership down there to be as inclusive as possible. We, in the minority party, can ask and put forward ideas, but it’s really up to them if they’re going to operate in a bipartisan way and include us in the discussions, not just asking for our vote on the final day,” said Turner.

Turner says House members will continue working remotely for the next week, but on May 25, will return to Raleigh.

Safety measures for lawmakers, staff members, and the general public are being worked out.

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