Full Interview with Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory talks about the proposed budget. Watch the full interview here.

Capital Tonight July 30: US Senate Campaign Ads

On Capital Tonight: We take a look at the summer’s campaign ads in the U.S. Senate race with Frank Eaton and Billy Warden. Our Advocates Andrew Barnhill and Wayne King look at teacher raises in the budget compromise. Watch the program here.

NC House, Senate Expected to Approve Budget Bill This Week

RALEIGH — The proposed state spending plan was released to the public late Wednesday and is expected to be approved by lawmakers within the next few days.

The Senate plans to approve the 260-page budget bill before heading home Thursday night and finish work early Friday. The house will do the same thing beginning Friday.

Highlights from the bill include the 7 percent teacher pay raise, raising the provider rate cut for Medicaid to 4 percent and extending a ban on drone usage until the end of 2015.

Democrats who received hard copies of the budget Thursday morning said they have a lot of concerns with the proposal.

A few things not included in the bill are plans for a Medicaid overhaul and a provision banning teens from using tanning beds.

After approving the budget, lawmakers may return in less than two weeks rather than shut down for the year.

That would give Gov. McCrory 10 days rather than 30 days to decide whether to veto the spending plan.

• Read the full budget here (.pdf)

- Loretta Boniti

In General Assembly, Local Sales Tax Legislation Comes Into Focus

RALEIGH — A bill that has been getting attention for its cap on local sales tax, created a new set of concerns in a legislative committee Wednesday.

The proposal not only says that counties have a limit on how much sales tax they can charge, it also expands and creates several state level economic development programs.

The NC Secretary of Commerce, Sharon Decker, made her sales pitch to state House members on Wednesday—saying the Tar Heel State needs to expand its economic development tools.

“It is not a change in philosophy, but it is a change in strategy as we look for new things to invest in job creation,” said Decker.

In a bill approved by the Senate, several current economic development funds are expanded and a new one is created. The job catalyst fund which would be doled out by the secretary, in an effort to help finalize deals.

But some lawmakers questioned why a new fund is needed, when other tools are not expected to be funded in the state spending plan.

“Why are we abandoning those existing tools, and creating programs for jobs that don’t exist yet,” said Rep. Susi Hamilton.

Others expressed concern that this fund is the type of expenditure the state worked to get rid of, with last year’s tax reform.

“The functional equivalent of a targeted tax expenditure, is a discretionary targeted tax program. There is no difference,” said Rep. Paul Stam.

This same bill also has another element that has been getting a lot of scrutiny. It looks to cap sales tax in counties at 2.5 percent.

For most counties, that opens doors for more voter approved taxes, but for other larger counties it ties their hands on anticipated tax votes. Some lawmakers say they believe this part of the proposal is problematic.

“I think there is tremendous pressure being put on counties to raise the sales tax for education. Many counties can really afford to raise enough money via that sales tax. Plus as we’ve talked about many times, the sales tax is a regressive tax and this is happening, this push on the counties to recommend this regressive sales tax to their citizens,” said Rep. Paul Luebke.

In the end, the committee voted to not concur with the Senate proposal. If the full House votes not to concur with this bill, it is expected to go to conference committee so that the house and sente can attempt to work out their differences.

- Loretta Boniti

Judge: School vouchers can go out ahead of ruling

RALEIGH—A North Carolina judge won’t block a state agency from distributing taxpayer money to cover private school tuition in advance of a hearing to determine whether the program championed by Republican lawmakers is legal.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said Wednesday he won’t issue an injunction blocking the State Educational Assistance Authority from paying out $10 million in government-funded scholarships to students who won a lottery for tuition assistance to attend private or religious schools.

The state moved the distribution date to Aug. 15, about a month earlier than originally planned. That’s four days ahead of an Aug. 19 hearing where Hobgood will hear arguments from lawyers representing a group of taxpayers and the state’s 115 public school boards, who contend the voucher program violates the state constitution.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

House and Senate Still at Odds on Medicaid Overhaul

RALEIGH — The debate over how North Carolina to should overhaul its Medicaid system continues.

On Wednesday, the state House considered the changes made to the proposal by the Senate. The House version looks to move the responsibility for patient cost savings on to doctors and providers.

The Senate also allows non-providers, like insurance companies, to compete for patient cost savings. House members say their version of the bill has more support from stakeholders involved in the patient care.

“To achieve the goals that this state needs to achieve in its medicaid program, which are very serious and that we have taken very seriously Mr. speaker, that bill has been changed, I would say dramatically Obviously it is not in any position in which the values of this chamber would be in concurrence,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar.

The House unanimously voted to not agree with the Senate changes.

It is expected the two sides will now try to work out their differences on the Medicaid fixes.

Industry Leaders Criticize Changes to NC Film Incentive Program

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Wilmington’s film industry leaders are calling on state legislators to reconsider current plans to replace the film incentives program with a film grant program.

Industry leaders are forecasting a dramatic decrease in the number of productions.

“To cut back on the incentive to that small amount, it’s going to require productions to look elsewhere,” said Johnny Griffin of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. “Productions that have shot here before or may be looking to shoot here are going to see that and they’re going to very quickly decide that North Carolina is not a place for them to do business anymore.”

The grant program would be capped at $10 million.

NC Republican Leaders Announce Budget Details

RALEIGH—Details are starting to be unveiled in the compromised state budget plan.

House and Senate leaders made agreements on Tuesday to say they are offering a historic teacher pay raise, giving state employees a pay bump, and preserving Medicaid eligibility.

Spending plan proposal highlights:

• $1,000 pay raise for most state employees
• Additional five days off
• Maintains funding for the state’s university system
• Creates a new film grant program to replace the film incentive program that is about to expire. The grant will be capped at $10 million to start.

Senate president pro tem Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis say the budget they plan to vote on later this week will be a big benefit for teachers.

Leaders said the plan should move the state teacher pay ranking from 46th in the country to 32nd. It also allows some flexibility for other classroom funding, letting schools district who choose to, move money for teacher assistants to pay for more classroom teachers.

The other area of much focus over the past few weeks is Medicaid. Under the proposed bill, Medicaid eligibility will remain the same and Medicaid reform has been taken out of the budget bill to continue to be discussed separately.

However there are other areas where cuts have been made.

The final budget proposal is expected to be voted on by both the House and Senate by the end of the week.

House and Senate leaders say they spoke with the governor over the weekend about the budget, and say he expressed some concerns with it.

They say they have made some adjustments in an effort to get the governor comfortable with their budget plan.

- Loretta Boniti

ACLU Confident NC Same-Sex Marriage Ban will be Overturned

RALEIGH — Plaintiffs in lawsuits against the state’s same-sex marriage ban are optimistic about what Monday’s federal court ruling could mean in North Carolina.

The ACLU announced at a news conference Tuesday that it has already notified the Department of Justice that it is filing for courts to lift stays and resume moving forward with four legal challenges to the ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina.

The organization also believes the ruling in Virginia is binding in North Carolina as well, meaning the ban on same-sex marriage will be declared unconstitutional.

“The harms that come from the lack of marital recognition in North Carolina range from the mundane to the momentous. The mundane, day-to-day challenges like families being able to sign off on field trip permission slips for their children to the momentous things that all of us want to be able to provide to our families,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina.

One of the couples who filed a legal challenge to the law in says timing is critical as one of them has a recurrence of breast cancer. They want to get married in their home state and don’t know how long she has to live.

Supporters of the ban on same sex marriage say declaring it unconstitutional would harm the state and the country.

“The danger posed by same-sex marriage is, first of all, to children. It won’t be tied to their biological parents. And second of all, to the religious freedom of all Americans,” Tami Fitzjerald, of the N.C. Values Coalition, said.

The ACLU says it will be at least 21 days before same-sex couples can marry in north Carolina but it is not clear whether it will take days, months or even years for it to actually happen.

They say they plan to continue to push the court cases to make it happen as soon as possible.

- Heather Moore

Capital Tonight July 28: AG Roy Cooper on 4th Circuit same-sex marriage decision

On Capital Tonight: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns Virginia same-sex marriage ban. NC Attorney General Roy Cooper says he will no longer defend North Carolina’s ban in federal court. We hear his reasons why. Barry Smith and Sarah Ovaska break down budget negotiations at our Reporter Roundtable. Watch the program here.