The state Senate’s Republican leaders on Tuesday announced their $22.9 billion proposed spending plan – a 2.5 percent increase over last year’s budget, but a 3.75 percent increase over how much was actually appropriated in the last fiscal year.
The budget includes an additional $600 million for public education. That includes promised increases to teacher pay, resulting in an average 3.7 percent pay increase for teachers in the next fiscal year and an average 9.7 percent increase over the biennium.
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said the budget includes raises for public school principals and $200 million in the first year for other state employees.
The budget also directs $150 million to the victims of Hurricane Matthew for continued disaster relief.
“Anyone who has seen our Senate budgets over the last six years will not be surprised that this budget continues our philosophy of improving outcomes in public education, providing generous tax cuts for the middle class and job creators, controlling spending growth and saving for the future,” Berger said. “This is the same successful approach that has resulted in consecutive years of revenue surpluses, including this year’s $580 million budget surplus.
“Overall this balanced budget spends $22.9 billion, it increases spending by 2.5 percent over last year’s adopted budget and 3.75 percent over last year’s actual spending. It focuses those increases on key areas, like providing $600 million more for public education. It continues implementing a plan announced last year to dramatically increase teacher pay, providing teachers an average 3.7 percent raise this year and 9.5 percent over the two years of the biennium while also ensuring that they earn for more over the course of a career.”
The budget plan would also include a $363 million contribution to the state’s reserve savings fund, bringing it to its highest level yet.
The budget plan includes the Senate’s tax cut plan, which will reduce the personal and business income taxes, as well as making other cuts meant to trim $1 billion in tax cuts across the state.
The budget also includes a provision under which North Carolina would no longer charge 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in non-violent crimes by Dec. 1, 2020, North Carolina would be the last state in the nation to do so.
The budget includes funding for air and sea transport as well as road repairs but does not seem to include any major funding for light-rail projects.
Berger said that the Senate and House, and also Gov. Roy Cooper, share many of the same priorities in a budget and just disagree on at what level to fund those needs, such as in the areas of education, infrastructure and transportation.
“We have found ways to meet those priorities without spending the same amount that the governor was,” Berger said.
Berger said that the Senate has maintained its stance that the people of North Carolina have a better idea of how to spend their own money than bureaucrats do, and in line with that the budget would leave more money in citizens’ pockets rather than drawing it into the government.
“We think the people have a better idea on how to spend their money than bureaucrats and politicians in Raleigh,” he said.
Berger said that he is optimistic that the budget will done by, or even before, mid-June, which is what House leaders predict.