Some details of the House proposed budget were released Thursday. Many big items, including raises for state employees and teachers and details of a possible bond package, were not revealed. The House plans to outline more Sunday or Monday and vote on its budget next week, sending it to the Senate. Some details so far:
▪ Eliminates about 60 jobs. Many of the cuts would be to jobs that have been vacant for at least a year, but it also includes positions empty only for six months.
▪ Increases the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, committing $12.5 million to it in the first year and $1.5 million in subsequent years. That would bring the fund up to about $42.5 million.
▪ The Wildlife Resources Commission would take a 23 percent cut to money it receives from the general fund, although its overall budget would increase slightly. .
▪ Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Greensboro, saved funding for three university centers that work on energy issues, at N.C. State University, Appalachian State University and N.C. AT&T State University. They faced recurring 7 percent cuts. Harrison said the cuts would jeopardize federal funding.
Health and human services
The health and human services budget puts a focus on infant and child health, but otherwise hews closely to Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal:
▪ Maternal, infant, and early childhood programs and contracted services would go through a “justification review” as part of a plan to invest in evidence-based programs that reduce infant mortality and improve health in children through 5 years old.
▪ $287 million is added to the state Medicaid budget to pay for increased enrollment and use of medical services.
▪ Adds $4.9 million to the budget to purchase space in local hospitals for psychiatric patients, bringing the program total to $43 million and the bed count to 180.
▪ The budget restores a $970,000 block grant cut of last year that’s used to pay for services for the elderly.
▪ Creates an Office of Program Evaluation Reporting and Accountability in DHHS. The agency secretary would hire the program director, but the office head could only be fired by the governor a month after the secrtary has sent the House speaker, the Senate leader, the state auditor and the legislative fiscal research director written notice itemizing the causes and justifications for dismissal.
▪ Sets up a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid.
▪ Puts $25 million from the sale of Dorothea Dix into a trust fund for renovations at local hospitals so they can convert beds to short-term inpatient behavioral health beds for voluntary and involuntary commitments.
▪ Eliminates 57 vacant positions in the department, cutting $1.5 million.
▪ Cuts $26 million in UNC system budgets instead of by $50 million in McCrory’s budget.
▪ Faculty members would “have a teaching workload equal to the national average in their Carnegie classification,” a mandate that could mean higher course loads for some professors.
▪ $49.32 million in the next fiscal year to cover the additional 3,300 students expected. Overall, the UNC system budget would increase $33.1 million, or about 1 percent – leading to the need for cuts.
t▪ UNC system campuses shouldn’t spend more than $1 million of state money on fundraising efforts. Putting a cap on that spending would result in a $17.9 million cut next year.
▪ The N.C. New Teacher Support Program, which offers support and training to beginning teachers through state universities, would get an additional $1.5 million. That would put its total budget at $2.7 million.
▪ Funding for what the House terms “game-changing research” at universities would increase from $3 million to $5 million.
▪ The House would increase community college tuition from $72 per credit hour to $76 per credit hour, as McCrory recommended, costing the average full-time student an additional $128 a year.
▪ The N.C. Need-Based Scholarship, which helps disadvantaged students pay tuition at private colleges, would increase by $2.5 million to $88.9 million.
The initial N.C. House education budget proposal would increase K-12 school spending by $269 million – or about 3.3 percent – adding new funds for charter schools and teacher bonuses.
▪ $100.2 million to handle school enrollment growth; 17,000 more students are expected in the next school year.
▪ An additional $88.9 million next fiscal year to fund teacher assistants at the current level – offsetting a drop in lottery funds that have been used to avoid cuts in years past.
$5 million to begin a pilot program called “Elevating Educators,” which would provide salary supplements for “advanced teaching roles” in which veteran educators earn extra pay for training and curriculum development roles.
▪ For those who teach Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or career and technical education courses, $4.5 million would be set aside for bonuses of up to $50 per student who scores highly on end-of-course or industry certification exams.
▪ Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, a charter school advocacy group, would get $1 million to launch a pilot program aimed at fostering more charters in rural areas. The group would give out $200,000 grants to new schools.
▪ An additional $50 million to buy textbooks – for a total of $74.3 million for books – and $21 million for establishing broadband access in public schools and supporting the state’s Digital Learning Plan.
▪ About $2.3 million would go to eight new Cooperative and Innovative High Schools approved by the state last year – including Wake Tech’s new Vernon Malone College and Career Academy.
▪ The Division of Motor Vehicles would collect an additional $289 million a year with a 50 percent increase for driver’s licenses, vehicle titles and other fees. The annual car registration renewal fee – not including county property taxes – would rise from $28 to $42.
▪ The gas tax, now 36 cents a gallon and scheduled to drop in January to 35 cents, would be cut instead to 33 cents in January. While truckers and other drivers who use diesel fuel have always been taxed at the same rate in the past, the diesel tax would be set 3 cents higher than the gas tax – starting in January at 36 cents.
▪ The state Department of Transportation’s fuel tax collections would be reduced by $29 million a year.
▪ $75 million to the State Ports Authority over the next two years for channel dredging, modernization of cranes and berths and other improvements at the Wilmington and Morehead City ports.
Blackbeard’s ship, the North Carolina Symphony and Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal for a new Cabinet agency to serve the military and veterans are all winners in the state House’s proposed budget for general government expenses in the new biennium.
The proposed House capital improvements budget includes a provision that would pay for five construction projects with a special type of bonds, called “two-thirds bonds,” if voters don’t approve a larger bond package for state building projects in 2015 or 2016. The five projects are a health sciences building at Appalachian State University ($70.8 million), an engineering building at N.C. State University ($65.1 million), a sciences building at UNC Charlotte ($90 million), a new medical examiner facility at Wake Forest University ($13 million) and the first phase of a Highway Patrol Training Academy ($30.7 million).
The proposed capital budget also includes:
▪ $3 million to help repair the hull of the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington.
▪ $5 million for water resource projects, including various beach nourishment projects and dredging projects.
▪ $15 million to increase capacity at State Crime Lab facilities.
▪ Nearly $6 million over two years for improvements to National Guard armories.
▪ $4 million to replace the third-floor roof at the Legislative Building in Raleigh.
▪ $5 million for planning of a plant sciences building and $11.9 million for planning of an engineering building, both at N.C. State.
▪ $6.3 million more in operating money (officials have requested $16 million) and $12 million more for technology upgrades.
▪ Funding for 70 new positions.
▪ $3.3 million toward the establishment of the first four of the eight behavioral-health units planned at eight high-security prisons.
▪ $1.16 million for 35 new workers starting Jan. 1 at the Central Prison Health Care Facility, which is adding 72 new beds. An additional 31 positions could be added in 2017 if the two-year spending plan is funded as proposed.
▪ Six new technician jobs at the State CrimeLab to assist with nonanalytical assignments. The intention is to free forensic scientists from doing paperwork and record keeping so the scientists can tend to the backlog of testing that has plagued the court system. In recent years, prosecutors have complained about not getting DNA tests and other lab results in a timely manner.
▪ Five new workers to develop courses and training for law enforcement agencies on “appropriate use-of-force” training.
Lynn Bonner, Colin Campbell, Ben Brown, Patrick Gannon, Bruce Siceloff and Anne Blythe