Tonight, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bipartisan State Budget by a vote of 80-35. Representative Szoka voted with all of his Republican colleagues and nine moderate Democrats in support of the plan.
The budget, which covers funding for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 and Fiscal Year 2016-2017, invests more in government functions — including public education — while reducing the tax burden on North Carolina families and businesses. The budget was passed earlier this week by the Senate, and after a final vote to be taken after midnight tonight, the budget heads to the governor’s desk. [UPDATE: The “third reading” that occurred just after midnight on Friday produced two additional Democrat votes, increasing the budget’s bipartisan support, for a final tally of 81 to 33. One legislator who voted “aye” on Thursday’s initial vote was not present for the vote on Friday.]
Governor Pat McCrory said earlier today that he plans to sign the budget into law on Friday.
“This is a budget compromise that stays true to conservative principles, while also investing in our State’s future,” said Speaker Tim Moore. “While it has been a long session, every day involved thoughtful, judicious budgeting. Today we not only passed a good budget, but we took significant steps to address some of our State’s chronic problems.”
“We are improving our credit and shoring up rainy day funds by growing reserves to $1 billion,” continued Speaker Moore. “We have laid the groundwork for comprehensive Medicaid reform — an issue that has been kicked down the road far too long. We have restored the unlimited medical tax deduction, so that our sick and elderly are well looked after. We have invested in our children by providing more tools for success. We have enabled taxpayers to keep more of their hard earned dollars. I commend Governor McCrory and Senator Berger for their willingness to compromise throughout this process, and am glad that we have been able to reach this agreement..”
Some key House priorities represented in the final budget:
- Invests $138 million annually over the biennium to preserve valuable Teaching Assistant positions across the State;
- Secures support for Driver Education so that North Carolina can continue to train responsible drivers. $24.1 million in FY15-16 with future funding secured with late vehicle registration fees;
- Invests $1.5 million over the biennium for Transforming Principal Preparation, a House initiative that supports programs to dramatically improve the rigor of principal preparation and offer more career opportunities;
- Increases funding to Textbook and Digital Learning Resources. Allocates $21.8 million in FY15-16 and $31 million in FY16-17, bringing total allotment to $52.3 million in Fiscal Year 1 and $62 million by Fiscal Year 2;
- Funds the House’s School Connectivity Initiative to expand broadband and WiFi networks in all North Carolina schools. Allots $2 million in FY15-16 and $12 million in FY16-17;
- Significantly increases support for the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Allocates an additional $6.8 million in FY15-16 and $14 million in FY16-17;
- Increases support for community mental and behavior health services and includes funds for additional psychiatric beds in hospitals, a traumatic brain injury waiver, and training for paramedics to better manage patients with behavioral health issues;
- Eliminates the transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund resulting in $216 million in additional funding for transportation each year;
- Rewards our hardworking teachers and State employees with a $750 bonus in FY15-16; and
- Cuts the personal income tax to 5.499% for North Carolinians beginning in 2017.
For a detailed breakdown of the budget’s highlights, click here.