The tough work on the state budget has just begun.
The House early Friday morning passed Senate Bill 257, a $45.7 billion General Fund budget for the next two years. It spends nearly $350 million more than the Senate version of the General Fund budget passed three weeks ago.
The differences may not seem so big: less than 1 percent of the bottom line. But there are dramatic variations in a many policy priorities set out by House and Senate leaders.
They’ll have to reconcile them in a House-Senate budget conference, likely to start next week. (House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, signaled as much late Thursday night when he told lawmakers to be ready to get to work Monday if picked to sit a conference committee after the Senate almost certainly rejects the House plan.)
Then they have to deal with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who’s suggested he’ll veto whatever emerges from the General Assembly. The governor’s budget outline spent $47.3 billion over the two-year cycle, nearly $2 billion more than the House plan and $1.7 billion more than the Senate’s.
Timing matters. Once the House-Senate “conference report” budget passes and goes to Cooper, the governor will have 10 days to sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.