The State Senate gave initial approval to the $23.917 billion state budget plan Wednesday that has been placed on the calendars of both chambers for floor votes on Thursday.
The budget deal was hammered out in conference committee between the two chambers and then approved in committee before going to the floor of each chamber.
“After days of claiming they would have no chance to voice their opinions on this budget, it turns out Senate Democrats did have that opportunity – and unfortunately they used it to say 6.5 percent pay raises for teachers are ‘bad’, substantial pay raises for principals are ‘bad’, a base wage of $31,200 for state employees is ‘bad’, 4 percent raises for correctional officers are ‘bad’, 8 percent raises for state troopers are ‘bad’, and setting aside $2 billion in the rainy day fund to prepare for the next natural disaster is ‘bad’,” Senate Leader Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said. “I’m not sure what it says about how far out of touch with the people of our state the Democratic Party has gotten that we can’t find common ground on these issues, but I am pleased that legislative Republicans kept their promises and delivered on these priorities that are important to voters.”
State leaders, on Monday, released the details of the planned budget agreement hammered out between the two chambers in conference this week.
The vehicle for the budget, SB99, has been placed on the calendar for Thursday, more than a month ahead of the start of the new fiscal year.
Legislators have been working together to nail down a plan for adjustments to the state’s two-year budget plan for the second fiscal year, set to start July 1.
Legislators said that because the state saw a revenue surplus for the fourth consecutive year the total budget for the year will be $23.917 billion, which represents a nearly four percent increase over last year’s budget plan.
“The main purpose of our short session is to make necessary adjustments to the sound, two-year budget that is already in place, and that’s exactly what our members accomplished,” Senate Leader Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said. “Gov. Cooper and legislative Democrats should add their support to this plan that prioritizes public education, provides a fifth consecutive teacher pay raise and offers substantial tax relief for millions of North Carolinians.”
The increased revenue will allow the state to make targeted adjustments to the biennial budget passed last year that they said will address critical needs and fund key priorities.
“These budget adjustments secure a strong financial future for North Carolina by sustainably increasing state investments while ensuring relief for taxpayers, a balanced approach that has consistently proven successful in growing our economy, producing revenue surpluses and saving a record rainy day reserve,” House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said.
The budget plan provides for a fifth consecutive raise for teachers, while also continuing the recent trend of tax cuts for personal and corporate taxes, which state leaders have tied to revenue growth in the state over the least few years.
Teachers will see an average 6.5 percent raise in the coming year, with principals seeing an average 6.9 percent raise, along with an additional $700 million in public education investment including funding for new construction, upgrades, and initiatives to increase school safety.
The budget plan includes a $1.5 billion tax cut that legislators say will result in 99 percent of taxpayers either paying less or no state personal income taxes at all in the coming tax year.
The budget also provides an additional $60 million to help rebuild for the victims of Hurricane Matthew while also buffing up the state rainy day fund with an additional $161 million, putting the total fund at a historic level of $2 billion.
The fund is intended to ensure North Carolina is well prepared for the next natural disaster or economic downturn.
The budget also directs more than $200 million toward pay increases for state employees, including a 2 percent permanent pay raise for most state workers and larger increases for State Highway Patrol troopers and correctional officers.
The budget also ensures the minimum salary for all permanent, full-time state employees will be at least $31,200.
Looking toward the GenX crisis and ensuing environmental concerns the budget includes provisions to ensure access to clean water for North Carolinians affected by the pollution, along with key changes to economic development programs that are expected to secure thousands of new jobs and billions in new investment to the state, legislators say.
Additional provisions of the budget include:
In Salaries and Benefits –
- Provides an average 6.5 percent pay raise for teachers, which will bring the average increase to teachers’ base pay to nearly 20 percent since the 2013-14 school year.
- Allocates nearly $12 million to provide a permanent salary increase to veteran teachers with more than 25 years of experience.
- Directs an additional $22 million toward performance-based bonuses to top-performing 4th and 5th grade reading teachers and 4th-8th grade math teachers whose students achieve the most academic growth.
- Funds a 6.9 percent increase to the principal salary schedule, which will bring the total increase to principals’ base pay to 13.1 percent since the 2016-17 school year.
- Provides performance bonuses for principals whose students achieve the most academic growth. Under the agreement, principals could earn bonuses of up to $20,000 on top of their base salaries.
- Includes more than $28 million to provide a 2 percent pay raise to other school employees.
- Offers a 2 percent permanent salary increase for most state employees and a one-time cost-of-living supplement for retirees.
- Raises the minimum salary for all permanent, full-time state employees to at least $31,200.
- Funds a new pay plan for State Highway Patrol troopers that will raise starting pay to $44,000 and provide troopers a roughly eight percent average pay raise. The new plan will also accelerate the timeframe for a trooper to get to top pay to six years.
- Includes roughly $22 million to provide correctional officers working in state prisons a four percent salary increase. The budget also expand the covered population for the line of duty death benefit, and double the benefit’s value from $50,000 to $100,000, ensuring all families of the victims from recent prison attacks receive that benefit.
- Allocates $20 million for pay raises for public university employees and $24 million for community college employees.
In Education –
- Increases funding for public education by nearly $700 million.
- Fully funds K-12, community college and public university enrollment growth.
- Provides $35 million for school safety initiatives, including new grant programs to support students in crisis, school safety training, safety equipment and youth mental health personnel.
- Invests an additional $11.9 million in textbooks and digital resources, bringing the total annual state funding for textbooks to $73.9 million – a $71.4 million increase from the last Democrat-authored budget.
- Directs additional lottery funds toward grants to economically struggling, rural counties to assist with critical public school building needs.
- Maintains smaller class sizes in core academic subjects and keeps a new salary allotment for kindergarten through fifth grade program enhancement teachers – like music, art and physical education – beginning next school year.
- Increases funding to Eastern North Carolina STEM.
- Doubles the number of local school districts eligible to participate in the “TA to Teacher” program that helps teacher assistants receive training to become teachers.
- Protects the Read to Achieve, Teach for America, and Communities in Schools programs from being cut by the Department of Public Instruction.
- Allocates close to $15 million to community colleges for workforce training programs.
- Fully funds the N.C. Promise Program, which guarantees in-state undergraduate students at three schools across the state pay just $500 per semester for tuition.
- Includes new funding for medical education, including funding increases to the UNC School of Medicine’s Asheville campus.
- Increases funding for Children with Disabilities Scholarship Grants by more than $3 million to reduce the waitlist.
In Health and Human Services –
- Provides over $18 million to add 3,525 new pre-K slots – and includes a plan to eliminate 100 percent of the state’s waitlist for at-risk children by 2021.
- Directs $60 million from the Medicaid Transformation Reserve to be used for start-up costs related to Medicaid Reform’s program design.
- Establishes LME-MCO solvency standards to strengthen the state’s mental health system.
- Appropriates $5 million for the new Broughton Hospital to add 85 beds and create up to 169 staff positions.
- Increases the Child Care Subsidy amount for children from ages birth through five so they have access to most child care centers in the most economically distressed counties. Child care subsidy rates are also increased for children ages 3 to 5 in Tier 3 counties.
- Reduces the Child Care Subsidy Waitlist by providing nearly $20 million in federal block grant funds to serve an estimated 3,700 additional children.
- Provides an additional $8.5 million from the Low-Income Energy Assistance block grant to help pay heating bills for the elderly and disabled populations.
- Sets aside $6 million for the construction of a new TROSA Facility (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, Inc.) in the Triad area and $1.4 million for a facility-based crisis center in Wilkes County.
In Justice and Public Safety –
- Funds the changes necessary to “raise the age” in North Carolina, ensuring 16- and 17-year olds suspected of misdemeanor offenses and less serious felonies will be tried as juveniles instead of adults by December 2019.
- Allocates $15 million for safety and security upgrades in state prisons.
- Provides funding to begin a multi-year project that will create an integrated e-Courts technology system.
- Establishes the “Criminal Justice Fellows” program to provide forgivable loans to aid in the recruitment of future law enforcement officers seeking an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice.
In Taxes and Economic Development –
- Reduces the tax burden on North Carolina families and small businesses by cutting the personal income tax rate from 5.499 to 5.25 percent in 2019, and by increasing the amount of income that is exempt from state income tax.
- Lowers the corporate income tax rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent in 2019, continuing the business tax reforms that have helped create more than half a million new jobs since Republicans took control of the state legislature in 2011.
- Enables a company that commits to investing at least $1 billion and creating at least 3,000 new jobs in North Carolina to be eligible for a transformative project award under the state’s Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) program.
- Modifies the award that is available to large economic projects to make certain that the positive impact of those major job recruitments is felt by the entire state.
In Agriculture and the Environment –
- Sets aside more than $10 million to provide access to clean drinking water for those impacted by GenX contamination and to fund the state’s efforts to address these emerging compounds and their threat to safe drinking water.
- Allocates more than $22 million for Farmland Preservation, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
- Provides funding to purchase dredging equipment to ensure valuable economic activity at the North Carolina coast can continue, with a potential economic impact of up to $500 million in Dare County alone.
- Designates over $3.5 million in match funding that will leverage an additional $15 million in federal funding to improve the state’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.
In Transportation –
- Allocates $135 million for the Strategic Transportation Investments Program (STIP).
- Invests $50 million to fund immediate need construction projects across the state that improve mobility and safety, reduce congestion and spur economic development.
- Includes $104 million for a Roadside Environmental Fund dedicated to ensuring the safety and beautification of the state’s highways.