The budget process continues to inch forward. Last week House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger announced that top legislative leaders have agreed that expenditures for the year starting July 1st will be just over $24 billion. That amount represents a roughly 3.5 percent increase over this year’s budget, but less that the amount proposed by Governor Cooper. As legislative opposition to Treasurer Folwell’s proposed changes to the State Health Plan continues to heat up, Folwell has made changes to boost payments to rural hospitals. The State Health Plan has agreed to increase by $52 million the annual reimbursement rates for many rural hospitals. Folwell said the adjustments would increase payments to rural providers by 20 percent from the original proposal, “while still saving taxpayers almost $258 million and plan members almost $57 million.” Discussion about Medicaid expansion also continued last week, with a new poll showing strong support for the idea. A poll conducted by well-known Republican consultant, Paul Shumaker found that 72 percent of voters’ support Medicaid expansion. The poll also found that support remained above 70 percent even after messages supporting and opposing expansion were given to respondents. Read the full report here.