The North Carolina legislature adjourned its short session Friday closing out the 2017-18 biennium, save a planned session in November that would allow legislators to make some legal changes to accommodate the passage of constitutional amendments to the state constitution.
State Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said that the adjournment signaled the completion of the “lion’s share” of a productive biennium.
“Eight years ago, legislative Republicans promised to chart a new course for North Carolina, and ever since, we’ve worked tirelessly to place our state on a path to better economic growth, greater prosperity and a stronger public education system,” Berger said. “During that time, North Carolina has experienced historic gains, including more funding for public education than ever before, average teacher pay raises of nearly 20 percent, comprehensive tax reform and tax relief for millions of North Carolinians. This year, I am proud that the Senate continued to keep our promises to the voters and implement policies that will improve education and grow our economy, and I look forward to building on those successes in our next session.”
Berger was touting a number of accomplishments the legislature has achieved during the biennium, so far, including passing two “balanced, fiscally responsible state budgets” that Berger said invest in core services, strengthen public education, save for the future and grow the state economy.
Some of the highlights of the budget adjustments passed in June include, a final figure of $23.917 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year, representing a 4 percent increase.
The budget also provides an average 6.5 percent increase in teacher pay and an average 6.9 percent raise for school administrators.
The budget also included $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.
The budget also includes a $15 billion tax cut from reduced income tax levels and adjustments to the standard deductions and more.
The budget also allocates an additional $60 million to Hurricane Matthew disaster relief and more than $200 million toward a 2 percent raise for most state employees and higher raises for state correctional employees and state troopers.
Berger touted the tax savings passed during the biennium that will result in 99 percent of taxpayers paying less or paying no income taxes at all in the state.
He also talked about the business tax law changes that make it easier for all corporations to thrive in the state, as opposed to targeted tax savings for certain corporations or businesses.
Berger said the reforms have helped create more than 500,000 jobs in the state since 2011 through reductions in the corporate income tax and simplifying and cutting the franchise tax on small businesses.
Berger included a more substantial list of accomplishment from the biennium reproduced below:
- Adopted balanced, fiscally responsible state budgets that invest in core services, strengthen public education, save for the future and grow North Carolina’s economy.
- Delivered major additional tax relief that will result in 99 percent of taxpayers either paying less or paying no state personal income taxes at all.
- Continued the business tax reforms that have helped create more than half a million new jobs since 2011 by further reducing corporate income tax rates and simplifying and cutting the franchise tax on small businesses.
- Expanded tools to recruit new businesses to the state, including ‘transformative projects’ that are expected to secure thousands of new jobs and billions in new investment to North Carolina.
- Increased funding for public education by more than $1 billion over two years and continued major education reforms to reduce class sizes and ensure students receive the tools they need to succeed.
- Kept their promise to continue raising teacher pay, providing teachers an average raise of almost 10 percent over two years, which will bring the average increase to teachers’ base pay to nearly 20 percent since the 2013-14 school year. The Senate also provided substantial pay raises to school principals and assistant principals.
- Provided additional performance-based bonuses to more public school teachers and principals who help improve academic outcomes for their students.
- Made North Carolina schools safer, providing $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.
- Passed legislation that takes steps to reduce the testing burden on students in North Carolina and helps provide additional learning opportunities to thousands of children from low-income families across the state.
- Acted to make college far more affordable and accessible by fully funding the N.C. Promise Program, which guarantees in-state undergraduate students at three schools across the state pay just $500 per semester for tuition.
- Invested hundreds of millions of dollars in pay raises and bonuses for hardworking state employees, including a new living wage minimum of $31,200, as well as significant raises for State Highway Patrol troopers and correctional officers.
- Improved prison safety, allocating $15 million in additional funding to enhance prison safety and security and support “man-down technology.”
- Expanded the covered population for the line of duty death benefit, while also doubling the benefit from $50,000 to $100,000 and ensuring all families of the victims from recent prison attacks receive that benefit.
- Ensured access to clean, safe drinking water, setting aside more than $10 million to provide drinking water to those impacted by GenX contamination and to fund the state’s efforts to address PFAs and their threat to safe drinking water.
- Expanded statewide access to broadband, establishing the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program to address broadband needs in the state’s rural areas.
- Ensured the state is well-prepared for the future by increasing the rainy day fund to its highest total ever. The savings reserve is now at $2 billion, the highest figure in state history. Lawmakers also increased the amount of state funds automatically going into savings each year.
- Provided more than $160 million in needed disaster relief assistance to families and communities devastated by Hurricane Matthew.
- Passed bills giving voters a choice on whether to amend the North Carolina Constitution to keep income taxes low, preserve the right to hunt and fish, strengthen victims’ rights, establish a system to fill judicial vacancies, ensure a bipartisan Board of Elections and establish a Voter ID law.
- Passed additional reforms to the state’s burdensome regulatory environment to cut through red tape that chokes off economic growth.
- Helped combat the opioid addiction crisis by passing the STOP Act to ensure highly-addictive prescription drugs are responsibly administered and not over-prescribed, and the HOPE Act to give law enforcement the tools they need to battle the opioid crisis.
- Added thousands of slots to the state’s pre-K program and developed a plan to eliminate 100 percent of the state’s waitlist for at-risk children by 2021.
- Funded 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.
- Invested hundreds of millions of additional dollars for transportation, including an increase to the Strategic Transportation Investments Program (STIP) of more than $274 million, to allow more than 90 new highway projects to be built over a ten-year period, improving mobility and safety, reducing congestion and spurring economic development. In addition, hundreds of structurally deficient bridges will be replaced and thousands of miles of roads resurfaced.
- Accelerated the construction of hundreds of road and bridge projects by passing the Build N.C. Act which allows the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to use a new financing tool to access up to $300 million each year over the next ten years in order to complete smaller road projects that otherwise would be constructed much later.
- Allocated more than $370 million in lottery funds to assist counties with critical public school building needs.
- Protected North Carolina’s family farms, passing the N.C. Farm Act of 2018 which contains numerous provisions aimed at supporting the state’s largest industry and ensuring that farmers have the intended legal protections in the state’s right to farm law.
- Completed a thorough and transparent confirmation hearing process of the governor’s cabinet secretaries, where senators evaluated their qualifications, possible conflicts of interest and willingness to follow the law.
- Strengthened laws against human trafficking and laws to increase awareness of the warning signs of trafficking.
- Funded much-needed additional positions in the state court system, including dozens of new deputy clerks of court and assistant district attorneys.
- Overhauled North Carolina’s social service system to address substantial issues in North Carolina’s child welfare program to ensure the safety of kids.
- Created a new North Carolina Teaching Fellows program to attract and retain new Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and special education teachers in North Carolina’s public schools.