North Carolina legislators are making progress towards enacting an FY2021-2023 state budget. On June 25th, the Senate passed its budget proposal, which directs spending for the more than $5 billion in American Rescue Plan funds the state received from the federal government. Included in the Senate’s proposal were several provisions for councils of governments (COGs). Most notably, a pot of $30 million was allocated to be divided equally between the N.C. Association of Regional Councils of Government, the N.C. Association of County Commissioners and the N.C. League of Municipalities to provide guidance and technical assistance to local governments in administering funds from the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. The Senate also included a provision requiring the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to enter into memorandums of agreement to house the new Child Welfare Services regional supervision offices created in legislation passed in 2018.
Many agree that the proposal is as robust a Senate budget as the State has seen in some time. Another interesting dynamic is that Governor Cooper, who presented his budget proposal in March, only cited two main issues with the Senate’s version: not enough teacher pay increases and the inclusion of emergency powers language that would remove authority from the Governor during times of crisis. While teacher pay may not guarantee a veto from the Governor, if the Senate’s emergency powers language is included in a conference report, he could veto the bill over this provision alone.
The House of Representatives is now drafting its version of the budget. The General Assembly’s break for the Fourth of July holiday slowed the process and some Chairs of the House’s Appropriations Committees have commitments outside the state later this month that may impact timing as well. With the House reconvening during the week of July 12th to focus on the budget, it is possible its proposal could be ready as early as the week of July 19th. If that does not happen, the most likely scenario is the House will roll out the proposal by the second week of August, which would have the General Assembly in session through early September working on budget negotiations.
Centralina is working with state government relations consulting firm EQV Strategic to monitor the state budget process. EQV anticipates the provisions in the Senate’s proposal pertaining to COGs will be included in the House’s version. They also anticipate the House adding the Disaster Relief and Mitigation Act of 2021 that would include direct appropriations for COGs to support local governments by administering disaster funding and providing funding for disaster assistance and disaster mitigation training. Centralina will continue to follow these developments closely and work to ensure the tools and strategies to support member governments.