Yesterday, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed its version of the state’s budget for the second year of this session’s biennium. The spending plan cleared the chamber by an overwhelming margin, with a bipartisan vote of 103-12.
Representative Szoka voted with all of his House Republican colleagues for the Budget, joining with 30 other House Democrats who also supported the plan.
“North Carolina is on the move,” commented House Speaker Tim Moore. “Over the past 5 years, the Republican majority has erased massive state debt, lowered taxes and slashed red tape — making our state one of the fastest growing economies in the country. That is why today, our State is in position to pass a budget that provides meaningful raises for our teachers and public safety officials, reinvests in our critical infrastructure, and shores-up the rainy day fund — all while cutting taxes and restraining spending. When you pass a spending plan that does all of those things, you see widespread and bipartisan support like we did in this week’s landmark House budget vote.”
Senior Appropriations Chairman Nelson Dollar (Wake) said, “We are pleased to have strong bipartisan support for a responsible budget that funds teacher and state employee raises, addresses critical mental health issues and puts more money in the pockets of working families.”
Appropriations Chairwoman Linda Johnson (Cabarrus) stated “I am appreciative for the bipartisan support of the House version of the State Budget adjustments. The vote reflects that this budget meets the needs of our citizens across the state. I am most proud that our teachers’ salaries will rise to an average of nearly $50,000.”
Appropriations Chairman Chuck McGrady (Henderson) added, “My work has mostly been on environment and transportation issues, but I also work on children’s issues. This budget funds teacher raises, while allowing some very targeted tax cuts. I’m quite happy with the balance that has been struck, and that is why I’m happy to support this budget.”
The full text of the budget can be found here and a summary of its key provisions are below.
House Budget Highlights
- $22.225 Billion spending cap that keeps pace with population growth and inflation
- This is a 2.3% conservative increase in spending over FY 2015-16
Raises for Teachers and State Employees
- Over $460 Million for compensation increases for teachers, Highway Patrol, Clerks, Magistrates and other state employees
- In addition to experienced based salary increases, most teachers receive3% annual recurring salary increase and a $500 bonus
- State Employees receive 2% annual recurring salary increase and a $500 bonus for all permanent, full-time state employees
Tax Cuts for Working Families
- Increases the zero tax bracket by $2,000 over four years to include more taxpayers.
- 70-80 percent of North Carolinians file their taxes under the zero bracket/standard deduction.
- Provides an additional $300 million to the Savings Reserve Account, bringing the total to $1.4 billion
- Fully funds K-12 enrollment growth for public schools.
- Keeps Driver Education funded beyond 2017 to help North Carolina train responsible drivers.
- Invests an additional $9.4M in the NC Digital Learning Plan that will new digital classroom resources and professional development for students and educators.
- Increased funding for classroom supplies, textbooks, and digital learning materials.
- Increases the Special Needs Scholarship by $5.8M to award more scholarships for special needs children and families to ensure the unique educational needs are met for these students.
- Enhances the Read to Achieve reading initiative by placing literacy coaches in the lowest performing elementary schools.
- Rewards excellent Advanced Placement and Career and Technical Education teachers by funding bonuses for student achievement in AP exams and industry-recognized certifications.
- Establishes a teacher scholarship program for students who plan to teach in hard-to-staff schools in North Carolina.
- Expands the principal preparation program to develop new school leaders in our state.
- Restores $14.9M in flexible funding for our state’s community colleges to assist in retaining quality instructors.
- Funds additional internship opportunities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to expand the career-readiness of college students.
- Supports students that have earned a significant amount of college credit but stalled in the progress toward a degree.
- $450,000 to increase the number of students and workers participating in apprenticeship training opportunities across the state.
Investments in our Transportation Infrastructure
- Continues to fund a training initiative to provide commercial Driver Licenses to military personal.
- Addresses wait times in the busiest DMV districts by allowing for an augmented driver license examiner work week.
- Establishes a reserve account for capital improvements to the North Carolina Ferry System:
- Additional funds will support the replacement and rehabilitation of vessels, terminal ramps, gantries, and bulkhead infrastructure.
- Increases funding to the Reserve for General Maintenance and for the Secondary Road Maintenance and Improvement Fund.
- Provides a pathway to pave more unpaved roads.
Equitable Compensation for Dedicated Public Servants
- The House budget gives educators, on average, a 4.1% pay raise by fully funding experience-based step increases.
- Educators in Tier 1 and Tier 6 will receive a $1000 bonus and is to be considered part of an educator’s annual salary for retirement purposes.
- School based administrators will receive a 2% raise and experience-based step increases. Those who did not receive a step increase in FY 2016-17 receive a $500 non-recurring compensation bonus.
- All permanent full-time State employees will receive a 2% annual recurring pay raise and a $500 non-recurring bonus.
- Provides experience-based step increases for eligible Assistant and Deputy Clerks, Magistrates, and State Highway Patrol Troopers.
- Provides $1 million for salary increases for the State Bureau of Investigation and Alcohol Law Enforcement agents.
- Provides funds to continue implementation of custody-level pay for Correctional Officers, Custody Supervisors, and Prison Facility Administrators started in FY 2015-16
- Provides funds for an additional 3% salary increase for assistant district attorneys and assistant public defenders.
- Retirees will receive a 1.6% Cost of Living Adjustment.
- Increases the State’s contribution to the State Health Plan by 3.43% in order to plan for future needs
Strengthening Delivery of Health Care
- Streamlines and makes better use of tax payer funds by bringing more work in house as opposed to contracting that work out saving North Carolina taxpayers over $3 million dollars.
- Increases access to care in rural, underserved North Carolina by investing $7.7 million for the establishment of a residency program at Cape Fear Valley Hospital
- Provides funding to establish an analytics pilot at Medicaid to integrate new data sources, automate reporting and analytic capabilities and integrate a tool to analyze claims in an effort to be more efficient and effective with current resources.
- Provides nearly $2 million to the Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Section to be used for an evidence-based diabetes prevention program targeted to minority populations.
- Provides nearly $60 million to help those individuals suffering from mental health conditions as well as individuals who struggle with substance abuse.
- Provides $4 million for an additional 800 children to be served in NC Pre-K, ensuring high-quality educational experiences to enhance the school readiness of our four-year-olds across the state.
- Provides relief to hard working families with child care needs by providing funding for market rate child care in Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties.
- In an effort to better serve our children, provides $9 million for enhancements to the Child Welfare system to improve the safety and outcomes of children involved in the Child Welfare system. This includes funding for training of local departments of social services, improving the foster care licensing and recruitment process and additional funding for In-Home services to support children while keeping families together and reducing the likelihood of children entering into foster care.
Investments in Public Safety
- Provides funding to equip and operate crime labs in North Carolina and increases funding for forensic testing.
- Authorizes funding for the completion and staffing of the new Western Crime Lab.
- Allocates additional funding to the Raleigh Crime Lab for equipment.
- Appropriates additional funding for the outsourcing of forensic analysis to include toxicology and DNA testing.
- Creates social media training for law enforcement.
Investments in Agriculture
- Provides $1 million for the Tobacco Trust Fund
- Provides $1 million for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund
- Provides $1 million for firefighting equipment for the Forest Service
Protecting our Natural Environment
- Increased funding for the Commercial Leaking Underground Storage Fund which works to remediate contaminated soil and groundwater
- Provides $5 million for Water Resources projects to improve water quality and to ensure safe drinking water for all in accordance with federal requirements.
- Increased Clean Water Management Trust Fund by $5M (for a total of $18.8M)
- Provide $5M to expedite closure of inactive hazardous landfill sites
- Restores $2 million to the Division of Air Quality to protect and improve air quality in North Carolina and includes a special provision that eliminates 31 counties from needless motor vehicle emissions inspections.
Responsible Government Operations
- Provides $155M for the state’s Repairs and Renovation Account
- Provides sufficient funds to meet the annual contribution needed for the State’s Pension Fund
- Provides additional funds to help minimize significant increases to the State Health Plan in the future
- Provides $2M to enhance tax fraud analysis using data analytics
- Dedicates an additional staff resource to detect and investigate insurance
- Increases government transparency by providing $850K to the State Ethics Commission to implement a new electronic application system for Statements of Economic Interest
Streamlining Information Technology System
- Provides funding to SBI’s fusion center to fund the Memex Data Analysis and Case Management Tool.
- Continues funding to address the protection of our data with the purchase of a new security risk management tool.
- Builds on North Carolina’s reputation for being the most military friendly state by establishing a new cyber security apprenticeship program for disabled veterans within DIT.
- Authorizes DIT to continue its enterprise resource planning system by beginning the planning of a statewide ERP system
- Exempts the Department of Public Safety from DIT.
The Budget now heads to the Senate for that chamber’s input.