(The Center Square) – North Carolina Senate Republicans said Friday they plan to go forward with crafting the state's budget without the governor's recommendations for the spending proposal.
According to North Carolina law, the "budget as enacted by the General Assembly" must be "administered by the governor."
Senate budget writers said they have not received Gov. Roy Cooper's spending proposal, which was due in May.
Senate budget chairs Harry Brown, R-Onslow; Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston; and Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, said in a joint statement Friday they already have started preparing their proposals, which they plan to finalize before the two-day legislative session that begins Sept. 2.
"A budget proposal from the Governor the week before we come into session is pointless," the senators said.
The North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) is required to issue the governor's recommended budget. However, according to the agency's timeline, Cooper's budget is now three months late.
Lawmakers were expecting a budget before the new fiscal year, which started July 1.
Meanwhile, the state may be facing a $600 million revenue shortfall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a May report by the Legislature's fiscal researchers.
"Proposing budgets when the state is flush is easy, but making tough calls during a recession is what demands real leadership," Brown, Jackson and Harrington said.
This the first time a governor has failed to submit the proposal before the new fiscal year, John Locke Foundation senior fellow Joe Coletti said, but the pandemic has scrambled the process.
"The Legislature intends to go through the budget process and make the corrections having to deal with the fact that we have lower revenues and what's happening with the federal funding. So, this is unprecedented," he said.
A fiscal report published earlier this month showed the state's net balance at $24.3 billion, with offsets held up with federal relief aid. However, researchers plan to release a new forecast sometime next week.
Coletti said it is unclear whether Cooper is required legally to present a new proposal in the second year of a biennium.
"The law is a little foggy on it," Coletti said.
Still, the General Assembly can revise the budget in this case without getting a new proposal from the governor.
Republican lawmakers said they plan to focus on increasing state unemployment compensation, improving access to COVID-19 treatment, expanding opportunity scholarships and decreasing regulations at child care facilities.
Attempts to reach Cooper's office and OSBM were not successful.