Fitzsimon: A subpoena for NC budget director?

The negotiations between House and Senate leaders trying to reach a final budget agreement don’t seem to be going very well as the week comes to an end.

By Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch

By Chris Fitzsimon
NC Policy Watch

The News & Observer reports that State Budget Director Art Pope declined to appear at a Senate meeting called to discuss the differences in Medicaid spending between the two budgets.

Pope said he declined to appear on short notice because he was still working on putting the latest Medicaid numbers together.

His failure to show up or at least send someone from his office prompted powerful Senate Rules Committee Chair Tom Apodaca to note that Senators could issue subpoenas if they had to, a startling suggestion that Pope brushed off by telling the News & Observer that he and Apodaca were friends.

That may be true and bluster from Apodaca is not exactly news, but bringing up subpoenas is still an interesting reaction that illustrates the underlying tension in the budget discussions.

It’s no secret that Governor Pat McCrory is much happier with the House budget than the Senate’s and Pope of course works for McCrory.

More questions about shady lottery claims

Then there is the lottery. The House spending plan doubles the advertising budget of the lottery to raise enough money to help pay for a five percent teacher raise.  But the House budget also includes new restrictions on lottery advertising, reflecting the discomfort with the lottery of Rep. Paul Stam and other social conservatives in the House leadership.

Lottery officials told a Senate committee this week that the restrictions mean the lottery cannot raise the additional money the House budget includes.  Lottery Director Alice Garland said the advertising restrictions were put in the budget because Stam wants the lottery to fail.

Garland’s testimony prompted Senators to ridicule the House proposal to use extra lottery money for teacher raises.

And it appears that House leaders knew their budget was based on questionable assumptions. The News & Observer reported earlier in the week that lottery officials told House leaders their numbers were flawed before the House voted on its budget and that Rep Nelson Dollar told lottery director Alice Garland not to say anything publicly about it.

A rude House reception for Senate leader

Senator Jerry Tillman showed up Thursday at the House Education Committee to discuss his bill to repeal the Common Core education standards only to find out that House leaders had stripped his bill and replaced it with provisions of a House proposal to repeal Common Core.

It’s not unusual for lawmakers to dramatically change legislation before it comes up in a committee and both the House and Senate plans unwisely repeal the education standards, but it’s not often a committee treats a powerful Senator that way.

Tillman was clearly caught off guard by the decision by House leaders to replace his proposal with the House plan and he was obviously angry about it.

Talk of subpoenas, dubious lottery numbers, and petty power plays in committees aren’t exactly setting the stage for easy budget negotiations.

This General Assembly session may go on for a while.

Chris Fitzsimon writes for NC Policy Watch.

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