ATLANTA -- The North Carolina legislature -- almost two weeks into the state's fiscal year -- late last week approved a $9.03 billion budget for fiscal 1994.
But lawmakers are still working out details of a capital spending plan that could put about $750 million of proposed general obligation debt before voters in November.
The budget, passed last Friday, has the support of Gov. Jim Hunt but under state law does not require his signature.
"The governor is very pleased that the General Assembly has put children first and supported a jobs incentive package." Rachel Perry, Hunt's press secretary, said yesterday.
Meanwhile the legislature remains in session this week, working to wrap up a fiscal 1994 capital spending bill that will probably include about $750 million of proposed general obligation debt.
If approved by voters in November, such an authorization would be by far the state's largest GO bond package ever, surpassing the $300 million of bonds for roads and $230 million for water projects authorized in 1977.
The operating budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 covers a 3% pay raise for teachers, a 2% raise for other state workers, and money for a new children's development program sought by the governor.
The 1994 budget is about $910 million higher than the $8.12 billion operating budget authorized for fiscal 1993.
On the revenue side, the budget does not include new taxes, but it does increase tuition by 3% for students attending the University of North Carolina system. Lawmakers also raised court fees by about 7%.
Hunt successfully pushed for $20 million in funding for an education initiative that will provide day care services to needy children. He also prodded lawmakers to approve a $5 million incentive fund for economic development.
On the capital spending plan, Dave Crotts, senior analyst and economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, said yesterday that the House has targeted $734.2 million of GOs for the November referendum, while the Senate favors a package totaling $748 million.
Under the House version, $303 million of GOs would be issued for the state university system, $311.2 for community colleges, and $120 million for clean water programs. This compares with the current Senate version, which targets $298 million for universities, $240 million for community colleges, $150 million for clean water, and $60 million for state parks.
Lawmakers are also working out details of a prison-building program to be funded by $87.5 million of GO debt that has been approved by state voters but remains unissued.
The bonds are part of $200 million of general obligation debt for jails narrowly approved by voters in November 1990. The $112.5 million of prison bonds already issued were sold in March 1992 as the state's most recent offering of GO debt. During the 1992 session, lawmakers put off approving the remaining $87.5 million because of disagreement over the kind of prison facilities that would be funded.
Crotts said the state began the 1994 fiscal year with a $498 million surplus, of which 25%, or $124.5 million, has been put into the state's rainy-day fund, and $57 million has been allocated for repairs and renovation.