WRAL reported Friday that Gov. Pat McCrory says he signed the $21.7 billion budget, which lawmakers gave final approval in the early hours of Friday morning. To read more, click here.
Rep. Paul Tine (District 6) released the following on the 2016-17 state budget:
Raleigh–This week, the Senate and House are voting on the biennial budget and, as with any budget, there are both good and bad provisions. I have weighed both and feel that the budget moves the state and northeast North Carolina in a better direction than where we started. I am particularly proud of the transportation portion of the budget in which I was most directly involved.
Dredging: The local match was reduced from a 50-50 match to 1-to-4 local to 3-to-4 state for tier 1 counties and to 1- to 3- local with 2- to 3- state match for all other counties. (Hyde is a tier 3 county). This reflects a commitment on the state’s part to invest in our waterways. The funds were developed by increasing the transfer from transportation from 1/6 of 1 percent to 1 percent of the Highway Fund ($13.1 million), a straight-line appropriation from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ($1.6 million), and the existing boat fees that were implemented last session ($5.1 million). There are no new or increased boat fees.
- Ferry System: We eliminated the proposed fee for the priority pass on the Hatteras to Ocracoke Ferry. This route also received an additional $1.7 million to help compensate for the additional costs of running the long route.
- NERSBA: Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agribusiness received $310,000 as it is the only regional school in the state to insure its sustainability and effect on the east.
- Oysters: Much of my bill, HB-302: Strengthen Oyster Industry, was included in the budget with the addition of some significant improvements. There are provisions to cut down on regulations for oyster restoration, to invest in cultch planting, to support oyster sanctuaries, and to develop a seed hatchery at UNC-Wilmington.
- Community Colleges: There is a $56.5 million investment in instructional equipment and technology in our community colleges.
- Broadband: A variation of my bill HB-349: Develop Broadband Connectivity Planthat tasks the state CIO to develop a statewide strategic plan to ensure we have a robust broadband infrastructure. Additionally, $14 million over the biennium is being invested to insure connectivity in all of our schools.
- Brody School of Medicine: ECU’s medical school is critical to maintaining access to quality healthcare in eastern North Carolina. There is $8 million per year to stabilize the activities of the school.
- Rural Economic Development Grants: $2.5 million was added for grants to rural communities for economic development.
- Historic Tax Credit: This program provides $8 million to invest in revitalization especially in our rural areas.
- Sales Tax: Under the Senate proposed tax redistribution plan, Dare County would have lost millions of locally collected sales taxes. While the final plan needs continued work no county loses funds in the first year, and, based on a 3 percent growth rate, there is a statewide county obligation in year two of only $2.7 million. The new funds are from applying sales tax to some services and those funds are directly invested in rural communities for schools, economic development and infrastructure. Under the new plan, Beaufort County and its municipalities gain a total of $140,000. Washington County and its municipalities gain $276,000. Hyde County gains $26,000.
- Elizabeth City State University: $3 million is appropriated per year for stabilization funds.
- Investment: Transportation infrastructure is a key function of state government. This budget demonstrates this priority by investing $440 million more per year in roads, ports and bridges. The amount in new projects was increased by $337 million over the biennium.
- Transfers: $219 million of transfers from transportation to the general fund per year is eliminated.
- Reform: The additional transportation investments need to be met with additional efficiency and responsibility within the department. My comprehensive reform package that was in the House budget has only slight changes in the final version. The plan includes better transparency, efficiency goals, accountability standards and a requirement for a top to bottom restructuring plan.
- Teacher Assistants: Teacher assistant positions are fully funded. In negotiations we had to agree to the senate request to eliminate using these funds for any other positions. Some Local Education Authorities (LEA’s) have been using the money for additional teaching positions and other programs. The loss of the flexibility is unfortunate, but keeping the TAs is an important win. Our individually focused curriculum in early grades is tailored and requires multiple professionals in the classroom.
- Drivers Education: Drivers Education is fully funded.
- Teacher Pay: Beginning teacher pay is increased, step raises are met, and they receive a $750 bonus.
- Quality Improvement: A principal preparation program is implemented to help increase student achievement. NC Career Coach Program aligns our community colleges and high schools by placing career coaches in schools. They will help students set goals and find the right community college programs to help students meet those goals. A new program is initiated to identify low performing local school administrations, ensure they have a strategic plan for improvement and that they have the resources to meet that plan.
- Textbooks and Digital Learning: An additional $52.8 million will be invested over the biennium.
- Mental Health beds: 72 beds will be added within our prison system alleviating some of the pressure on the public system. Additionally community beds are increased by 7 percent.
- Medicaid reform: The transition to a blended system designed to improve the delivery and costs of our Medicaid system is funded.
- Foster Care: Foster Care children will now be able to receive benefits until age 21 and will be supported with a new transition program to assist with moving to independence.
Justice and Public Safety
- Body cameras: Police body camera funds will be available to departments that wish to implement them on a grant basis.
- HERO grants: $1.6 million is appropriated for grants to combat sex crimes against children.
- Highway Patrol– Highway Patrol officers will receive a 3 percent raise as both a reward of service and a retention tool.
- Medical deductions: Medical deductions are restored and uncapped for all taxpayers.
- Charitable deductions: Charitable deductions are uncapped.
- Mortgage deduction: The mortgage deductions were protected.
- Income Tax: The standard deduction is increased to $15,500 from $15,000, and the personal income tax is dropped from 5.75 percent to 5.499 percent.
There were several provisions that I and several others find it very difficult to vote for, and, put in stand-alone bills, I would vote against.
- Sales Tax: While I agree that we should be investing in our rural communities, expanding sales tax to some services is not the manner I feel we should be using. I have consistently advocated that we should not be doing further tax reform, and, instead, allow the reforms to work we made last session. While I do not like this type of sales tax expansion, the budget does provide for an overall tax cut of $74.7 million in year one and $308.9 million in year two.
- Combining Local Education Authorities(LEA’s): I believe strongly that any consideration for combining education systems should be made within the context of a statewide plan that takes into account local input. I do not think that the state Board of Education should be tasked with making the decision. Along with several other representatives, we were able to ensure the Legislature would be able to see the plan and take action before any plan could be implemented.
- No COLA: The House had a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for state retirees and employees. Unfortunately we were unable to win this position. The compromise was the $750 teacher bonus.
- Solar Tax Credit: The solar tax credit will end this year. While I have felt that there are changes that are needed to be made to the system, I do not believe a wholesale elimination is appropriate.
- Opportunity Scholarships: I have been adamantly opposed to vouchers. This budget increases vouchers for low-income families by 129 percent.