RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ The North Carolina House has given initial approval to its state government budget plan for the next two years.
 
The chamber voted 77-41 Wednesday night to the proposal written largely by Republicans. House members debated for seven hours and voted on more than 25 amendments.
 
A final House vote is expected Thursday. The Senate approved its budget proposal three weeks ago. The two chambers should begin negotiations in earnest next week with the aim of getting a compromise to Gov. Pat McCrory by the end of the month. The competing plans each spend $20.6 billion next year.
 
Senior House budget chairman Nelson Dollar of Cary says the House plan would move the state forward. Democrats countered that the bill would send the state backward.