RALEIGH, – In a move which could signal a quick end to the legislative session, State House and Senate leaders released a joint statement Sunday evening that an agreement has been reached on a $20.6 billion state budget.
The statement from House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger that the agreement “invests in core services, streamlines state government, strengthens public education and grows North Carolina’s economy.”
"The budget safeguards North Carolina’s long-term fiscal health and offers close to a 2.5 percent increase in overall spending while cutting taxes for all North Carolinians. It accomplishes this while including over $1.5 billion in additional state dollars to fund out-of-control, unexpected costs in Medicaid," the statement continues.
The initial reports on the budget do not indicate pay raises for state workers, but does provide five bonus leave days.
“Together, members of the House and Senate have carefully crafted a plan that smartly invests in key priorities like education and public safety while fulfilling our shared commitment to fiscal responsibility and accountability in state government,” Berger said.
The plan also provides one-time compensation to living victims of a state-sponsored Eugenics program that ended in the 1970s and make changes to the North Carolina Rural Center which has come under criticism in light of a recent state audit and newspaper reporting.
“Once again, Republicans in the General Assembly have produced a state budget that reduces taxes and right-sizes state government,” said Tillis. “This budget is another crucial step in putting North Carolina’s fiscal house in order.”
Among the key highlights, the elimination of tenure for public school teachers and implementation of what’s called “employing teachers through contracts that are renewed based on job performance.” And “Continues our commitment to implementing a pay for excellence system by including $10.2 million in the second year to fund annual pay raises for the most effective teachers.”
The budget also implements opportunity scholarships in the second budget year, which some have criticized as diverting more state money to private schools. The budget also Provides funding to implement critical school safety measures, such as resource officers, and expand the use of technology and innovation in schools. The budget also Eliminates the K-12 flex cut for local school districts, implemented by Democrats under former Gov. Bev Perdue, to make the education budget process fully transparent and restores $33 million in recurring state funds to our community colleges.
In health and human services, the budget Provides over $1.5 billion in additional state dollars to pay to pay for cost overruns. Includes a special provision to allow the executive branch to develop a comprehensive plan for Medicaid reform over the next several months. This action is the first step necessary for our state to bring about meaningful change to Medicaid
Provides support to our state’s mentally ill and developmentally disabled by appropriating $4.6 million in the form of temporary, short-term assistance for individuals living in group homes. Allocates $12.4 million in education lottery funds for an additional 2,500 Pre-K slots.
In transportation, it supports the governor’s vision for overhauling the North Carolina Highway Trust Fund, which consolidates various funding streams to prioritize and accelerate transportation infrastructure projects at the state, regional and local level by an estimated 35 percent over the next ten years. The budget continues efforts to remove politics from transportation decision-making by eliminating named projects from statute, including previously mandated toll projects and the off-the-top gap funds, and mandates a data-driven prioritization process that includes local input to select future transportation investments.
In Rural Affairs and agriculture, the budget launches an accountable new Rural Economic Development Division within the state Department of Commerce – led by a new Assistant Secretary – with a focus on improving rural services and addressing rural needs. This replaces the Rural Center.
In Justice and Public Safey, it Restores funding for 69 trooper positions within the State Highway Patrol and provides increased funding for needed fuel, equipment and training and Adds 22 magistrates and 175 probation and parole officers across the state to ensure cases are processed smoothly and criminal offenders are supervised and complying with the law.
After it is read in by the House clerk on Sunday evening, the budget will be posted to www.ncleg.net.