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Morning Memo: House begins budget writing

WILL THE STATE BUDGET FINISH IN TIME? As the House begins crafting its own state budget this week, the phrase "continuing resolution" is being heard more frequently in the hallways at the statehouse. The idea is this: with the Senate's budget delay, will the House finish writing its own in time to get it approved before the end of the fiscal year June 30? And if it gets close, and House and Senate budget writers are still deadlocked in conference, will they need to find an escape plan to keep government running? House budget writer Nelson Dollar dismissed the talk in an interview last week, but House Democrats are openly discussing the possibility. "I don't see how it's going to be avoided," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a veteran Democrat. The state budget negotiations this year are complicated by House and Senate Republican leaders' attempts to imbed a tax overhaul that cuts government spending into the state budget, especially because the two chambers are so widely split on the issue.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: With money on the table, a strong lobbying presence is expected this week. A group of physicians will make the rounds Tuesday asking the House to put money in the state budget to pay for youth tobacco use prevention. House budget committees begin meeting at 8:30 a.m. Another House panel will consider the new school vouchers bill at 10 a.m. and a transportation committee will hear a ferry toll bill at noon. The House convenes at 1 p.m. but there are no bills on the calendar. The Senate convenes at 4 p.m. but will also hold a skeletal session with no action expected. Gov. Pat McCrory plays Mayor Pat again Tuesday morning in Charlotte, speaking to the local rotary club. Elsewhere, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will honor military spouses at an even in Fayetteville.

***Read more Dome Morning Memo below to get a roundup of North Carolina political news from the holiday weekend. ***

McCrory convenes new Council of State, declines to back Berger

Gov.-elect Pat McCrory convened an informal Council of State meeting hours after the current panel met Tuesday to decide the Dix land lease deal.

At the meeting of the incoming Council of State, the Dix vote from earlier in the morning didn't get discussed, said McCrory spokesman Chris Walker. It was more of a get-to-know-everyone meeting, he said, in which all pledged to work together.

Through the spokesman, McCrory declined to comment on the Dix deal and wouldn't publicly support Republican Senate leader Phil Berger's efforts to find a legal way to block the lease to the City of Raleigh.

Senate leader is looking to terminate just-approved Dix deal

Moments after the Council of State approved the Dix deal, a Republican legislative leader pledged to undo it. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, said he is evaluating legal options to terminate the lease.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that a majority of the Council of State caved into political pressure at the expense of good sense,” he said in a statement issued by his office. "The Senate will begin evaluating legal options to terminate this ill-conceived lease and reclaim this land on behalf of its real owners: the people of North Carolina.”

The state still owns the land, regardless of what Berger suggested. And its unclear if other Republicans would support him. House Speaker Thom Tillis has not yet weighed in on the decision, nor has Gov.-elect Pat McCrory.

Morning Roundup: Mental health deal in limbo, Mary Easley's pension doubles

Future treatment for as many as 3,000 Wake County people with mental illness remains in limbo as the county works to complete a partnership with UNC Health Care and the Alliance managed care organization. Full story here.

More political headlines from the weekend:

--N.C. State University has reached an out-of-court settlement with former First Lady Mary Easley over her abrupt firing three years ago in a deal that more than doubled her state pension payment, according to interviews and documents.

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