UPDATE: 12:15 p.m. Friday, September 18
After approvals from the North Carolina Senate and House, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law today a $21.735 billion state budget.
According to a release from the Governor’s office, McCrory stated “the budget submitted to me by the General Assembly includes many of the goals and ideas we put forward to provide the tools North Carolina needs to continue what we have accomplished during the past three years,” said McCrory. “Now we can work together to implement a common-sense vision for our great state that includes job creation, education, healthcare and transportation.”
For City of Wilmington officials, the Senate’s passage of the budget symbolizes the final straightaway in a race filled with political tug-of-war and, finally, compromise.
“We’re really ecstatic with this budget,” said Tony McEwen, Wilmington’s special assistant to the city manager for legislative affairs. “We’re incredibly proud of the leadership in Raleigh and all the hard work our members in the NCGA put into the creation of this bill. Of our top three issues, I think we won on all three or at least had a favorable compromise.”
In a 37-13 vote, North Carolina State Senators approved a $21.735 billion final state budget on its third reading. The budget will now go to the House of Representatives for a Thursday vote, with Governor McCrory’s approval needed by Friday to avoid the need for another continuing resolution.
According to McEwen those issues include the compromise on sales tax redistribution, extra funding for film, and the continuation of the historic preservation sales tax.
“They did not touch distribution through the formula that would have taken a significant amount of our sales tax revenue,” said McEwen. “Instead, the state has expanded the percentage of sales taxes related to services on things like refrigerators and automobiles to fund a program to enable education construction, community college, and economic development funding to 79 rural counties throughout the state.”
The percentage of sales tax collected is expected to be about $84 million, with $17 million of that amount from the state’s general fund.
See related stories:
- House votes down Senate sales tax redistribution; local officials optimistic but not satisfied
- Mayor Saffo, county officials speak out against sharing local sales tax
McEwen also stated the tripling of funding in the film grant program to $30 million with a $9 million cap per project was a “big win,” along with the $8 million historic preservation sales tax incentives, a program awarding funding for the restoration of historic buildings.
“I think we’ve received more in historic preservation dollars than anyone in the state, and what’s also really important is that the last two years this was a sunsetted item—meaning each year the program would go away at sunset on January 1, and would have to be renewed each new year. Now the program has been extended to 2020,” said McEwen.
“There’s no question this year’s budget process was long and difficult, but it was important to get the final product right,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham.)
According to a release from Berger, the budget also includes:
- A boost in early-career teacher pay to from $33,000 to $35,000 per year and experienced-based step increases to teachers, assistant principals, principals, State Highway Patrol troopers, clerks and magistrates. All public school teachers and state employees will receive a $750 bonus.
- Funding for all teacher assistant positions supported in last year’s budget, with a safeguard that school systems actually use those funds for TAs so their jobs cannot be eliminated to pay for administrative positions and other spending.
- An additional $705 million over two years for transportation needs, made possible in part by ending a $216 million transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund — ensuring that money is finally spent on building and maintaining safe roads and bridges.
- An investment of $225 million over two years to begin the process of restructuring and reforming the state’s chronically troubled Medicaid program.
For more information on the state budget, you can visit the NCGA website here.
James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD