UPDATE: Debate begins on Senate budget bill, read specifics here - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

NEW: Senate passes two-year budget plan, bill now goes to House

The state Senate on Thursday passed a two-year budget plan, which is now headed to the state House The state Senate on Thursday passed a two-year budget plan, which is now headed to the state House

RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT/AP) – Senate Republicans are handing off their vision of North Carolina's state budget to their House counterparts.

The Senate gave its final approval Thursday to a government spending plan of roughly $21 billion for each of the next two years. Like Wednesday's initial vote, the 33-17 margin was along party lines in favor of Republicans.

House Republicans will make changes to the Senate's plan and eventually the chambers will work out a final plan to present to GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.

The House is likely to look long and hard at Senate provisions that would transfer the State Bureau of Investigation to a McCrory Cabinet agency and eliminate a dozen Special Superior Court judgeships. The House also is expected to offer a smaller tax cut next year than the Senate.

The budget proposal does have an impact in southeastern North Carolina. The Senate plan mirrors the proposal submitted by Governor Pat McCrory in closing prisons in Bladen, Duplin and Robeson counties. That will eliminate more than 200 jobs, while saving more than $9 million in 2013-14 budget year.

Democrats criticized the 413-page proposal in committee on Tuesday, for eliminating $142 million for teacher assistants for second and third grades and failing to restore more public school funds for local school districts.

Click here to see the Senate budget plan.

Click here to see the summary of the budget bill.

Senate Republicans say ever-rising costs for Medicaid are siphoning away money in North Carolina government that could be used to help public education and law enforcement and raise employee pay.

They say the proposal must set aside $1.2 billion in additional funds through mid-2015 for Medicaid expenses. Sen. Pete Brunstetter of Forsyth County says the budget's attempts to get costs under control within the health insurance plan prevented senators from offering pay raises for state employees next year.

The spending plan contains measures from Senate leader Phil Berger that would eliminate teacher tenure and start a merit-pay system in the fall of 2014. But there's no pay increase this coming year for state employees and teachers.

The budget also would raise Medicaid spending by well over $300 million next year compared to this year.

Gov. Pat McCrory says the Senate budget aligns well with his proposal on Medicaid but says further dialogue is needed on several Senate provisions that are different.

Highlights of the Senate's $20.6 billion budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year. According to budget documents, the spending plan would:

- sets aside $217 million for a tax overhaul plan not contained in the budget that would reduce tax rates, subject many more services to the sales tax and eliminate the estate tax. Sets aside $5 million to implement proposed overhaul.

- eliminates the $376 million annual spending cut for local school districts in which they're expected to return a portion of money they've received as a cost-saving measure.

- spends $142 million less on teacher assistants. The revised allotment for assistants in kindergarten through third grade will now cover assistants in kindergarten and first grade.

- eliminates state support of ongoing operations at North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and continues the phase-out of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program.

- raises community college tuition by $2.50 per hour for residents and nonresidents.

- directs $48 million in reductions across the University of North Carolina campus system, with cuts as determined by school leaders.

- close minimum and medium-security adult prisons in Bladen, Duplin, Robeson, Wayne, Buncombe and Orange counties that contain nearly 1,600 beds and close the 708-bed Western Youth Institution in Morganton for young offenders. The change would eliminate more than 800 positions and save nearly $25 million.

- close two juvenile detention centers in Buncombe and Richmond counties and the youth development center in Lenoir County, eliminating nearly $100 million and saving more than $5 million.

- provide funding for dozens of currently vacant state trooper positions, at a cost of $2.1 million.

- fund eight new state parole commission positions and 175 new probation officer positions to carry out 2011 Justice Reinvestment Act, at a cost of nearly $6.7 million.

- transfer most of the State Bureau of Investigation from the Department of Justice to the Division of Law Enforcement in the Department of Public Safety. Keep state crime laboratory within the Justice Department. The lab would receive 19 new positions.

- eliminate 12 Special Superior Court judgeships.

- set aside $1.5 million to help the State Board of Elections carry out a bill expected to become law that would require voters to show photo identification to cast ballots in person.

- give $3 million to local school districts for its share of state proceeds from live poker and other table games at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians casino. The legislature, then-Gov. Beverly Perdue and the tribe agreed to the annual distribution last year.

- repays $27 million debt owed by the Global TransPark in Lenoir County to the Escheats Fund.

- shifts $12.4 million for 2,500 North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program slots to help reduce the child-care subsidy list by 2,600 children.

- closes three-state operated alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers effective July 1, eliminating about 550 positions. Some resulting savings would be allocates to local mental health organizations for similar services.

- establish a statewide "telepsychiatry" program to provide more mental health services in rural and medically underserved areas.

- create "shared savings" plan in Medicaid to offer $15 million incentives to medical providers to provide effective and efficient care that results in positive patient outcomes.

- increase the number of personal care hours per month for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia living in special care units.

- provide another $434 million for increased Medicaid expenditures to continue the Medicaid program at current levels.

- spend another $50 million next year for almost 70,000 new Medicaid recipients expected to enroll after learning about the Affordable Care Act but qualifying under current eligibility rules.

- merge the Natural Heritage Trust Fund and Clean Water Management Trust Fund to create a new Water and Land Conservation Fund a new panel to oversee its expenditures.

- create a new Division of Rural Economic Development within the Department of Commerce to address rural needs.

- eliminate $16.6 million in operating funds to the nonprofit N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, cut state general fund spending to N.C. Biotechnology Center in half, cut or eliminate other direct state aid to economic development organizations.

- adds three positions to Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

- eliminates Displaced Homemakers Program and transfers funds collected from divorce filing fees to fund for domestic violence centers.

- spend $1.4 million to help expand extended weekday and Saturday hours at 20 driver's license offices.

- increase road system preservation, general maintenance reserve and contract resurfacing program by more than $100 million each.

- carry out Gov. Pat McCrory's new prioritization formula for road projects.

- increases state retirement system contribution by $36 million for state employees, teachers.

- sets aside $31 million for information technology reserve fund.

- places $24.4 million in Job Development Investment Grant reserve for economic recruitment incentives.

- provides no pay raises for state employees or teachers.

Copyright 2013 WECT. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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