Sunday, July 3, 2016

State Budget Update / Happy 4th of July!

We officially adjourned the 2016 legislative session shortly before midnight on July 1st. This concludes our legislative work for the year, unless we are called back for a special session. Otherwise, the legislature will reconvene on January 11th, 2017.

Now that our work is complete for this year, I wanted to provide you with an update on the 2016-17 budget. 

State Budget Details

On July 1st we passed the state budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The total amount of the budget is approximately $22.3 billion. 

Here is a statement that I released in response to the passage of this year's budget:

This budget continues to move North Carolina forward as a leader in sound economic policy. Teachers in North Carolina are receiving what may be the largest pay increase of any state in the nation this year. Over the next three years, the average teacher salary in North Carolina will be nearly $55,000. 

We are also cutting taxes for everyone in North Carolina by increasing standard deductions, which will primarily benefit low-to-middle income earners. This will help to strengthen our economy and provide families with more income to invest in their future. There are also policies in the budget that will increase access to college by controlling the cost of tuition. 

This budget places an additional $473 million in our state savings account, brining the total to nearly $1.6 billion. This is revenue that will be used to help support the core functions of our government if there is an emergency, such as a recession or natural disaster. Like many people do in their personal life, it is important for our State to prepare for the future.

Spending is kept within TABOR, which means that it does not exceed the combined growth of population and inflation. This indicates that we are spending at responsible levels and that we are being careful with taxpayer dollars. I would also note that North Carolina is one of only a few states that maintain a AAA credit rating.

The fact that nearly 20 House Democrats joined the Republican majority to pass this budget shows that it is a good bipartisan plan. This is an outstanding budget for the citizens of North Carolina.

Highlights of the State Budget:

Includes a 1.5 percent permanent pay increase and 0.5 percent one-time bonus for state employees; over $80 million for merit-based bonuses; and a 1.6 percent cost of living bonus for retirees.

Invests $190 million in our teachers by providing them with an average 4.7% raise that will bring median teacher salaries to nearly $55,000 - the highest in state history. The budget also increases funding for teaching supplies, textbooks, and technology in the classrooms. 

Prepares for the future by adding an additional $473 million to our state savings account, bringing the total to an all-time high of nearly $1.6 billion. This is money that would be used to operate the state in case of an emergency.

Increases access to college by freezing tuition so that students will pay the same amount for each semester for four years at public universities. It also limits college fee increases to 3 percent per year.  

Allows for a $145 million tax cut by raising the standard deduction for all taxpayers. The first $17,500 will be exempt from taxation for a married couple and the first $8,750 will be exempted for a single filer. This will primarily benefit low-to-middle income earners.

Increases funding for Justice and Public Safety by nearly 4%. Provides funding for a desperately needed airplane used to catch criminals, extradite fugitives, and assist with drug investigations. Allocates $3.5 million to address a backlog of payment to lawyers who have represented indigent clients. 

Prioritizes mental health issues by funding the Governor's Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Abuse with $20 million. The budget also appropriates $20 million from the Dorothea Dix Property Fund to increase the amount of behavioral health beds and to construct new child facility crisis centers.

Protects the environment by providing an additional $8.6 million to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and $18.8 million for water infrastructure programs. The State will also invest $3 million in new firefighting equipment to protect the land and people of North Carolina.

Supports the State's infrastructure by investing $32 million for new highway projects; $14.8 million for airport development; and $13.7 million for safety updates to our railroad system.

Improves DMV customer service by providing $5 million targeted towards call center responsiveness, which will also help to reduce wait times at DMV offices.

Budget Conferee Appointment

It was an honor to be a budget conferee who helped to achieve a final compromise between the House and Senate. Although I don't expect the media to give the legislature much credit, this is an extremely responsible budget for the citizens of North Carolina. I am proud of the bipartisan work that was done to accomplish this goal. 

Developmental Disability ID Bill 

HB 1033 - ID Card Fee Waiver / Disability - has passed the legislature and has been sent to Governor Pat McCrory for his signature. It is my honor to be the lead sponsor of this bill, which will waive the fee for a government-issued ID for those who have a developmental disability. I am currently in the process of planning a public bill signing with the Governor and families that are impacted by developmental disabilities. 

Happy Independence Day!

I want to take a moment to wish you and your family a happy and safe 4th of July. This will mark the 240th birthday of our great nation. Let us remember those who fought to secure our independence and may we never take our freedom for granted.

Have a great Independence Day weekend!

"Where liberty dwells, there is my country."
- Benjamin Franklin

More Updates Soon

I will be sure to provide you with relevant updates when they become available. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or feedback. 

Quote to Remember
"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence."
- Vince Lombardi