Editorial: State may miss budget deadline -- again

Jun. 29, 2014 @ 01:16 AM

Perhaps legislators should begin work in July on the budget they will have to vote on in June 2015. They appear to need all the time they can get.

The state House and Senate remain locked in budget negotiations, with a deadline looming to approve something Monday.

Unlike last year, however, there already is a budget in place – the one approved last year several weeks past the deadline. But that budget is flawed – revenues have fallen short of projections, so unless adjustments are made Monday, cuts will begin to take effect Tuesday. But at least something is there already, so an impasse has known, measurable effects.

The main obstacle to a budget deal, according to news reports, is Medicaid – the House and Senate are $248 million apart. And the difference led to an unusual thing Thursday: Republican Senate leaders grilling the Republican governor’s budget director, Art Pope, who is often portrayed by liberal groups as the arch-conservative architect of everything they think is nasty about this General Assembly, about Pope’s budget proposal, which the senators deem as proposing an “overfunding” of Medicaid.

Pope responded that the Senate’s plan would not actually fix Medicaid’s spending problems, only change the eligibility requirements: “That would require not underfunding Medicaid but removing 5,200 aged, blind and disabled low-income residents from the Medicaid safety net.”

Given the Senate’s track record last year and the fact that the House, Pope and Gov. Pat McCrory are more or less all on the same page in the budget negotiations, we hope that this budget battle is resolved Monday in favor of the clear majority of legislators who do not want to balance the budget on the backs of thousands of current Medicaid recipients.