North Carolina Budget Update
With budget negotiations still underway and a third Continuing Resolution that extends funding for essential services until September 18th, it is vital to keep focus on the importance of what the House conferees are advocating for in Raleigh.
With two very different spending targets, House and Senate leaders have had a lot to negotiate. The House hoped to build off North Carolina's economic upturn to reinvest in our schools, raise the bar for teacher pay, and update old court technology - to name just a few priorities. The Senate set spending numbers artificially low, and added tax, economic development, and Medicaid policy into the budget.
These key differences have led to lengthy negotiations, but it's a process that needs time and close scrutiny. The first major hurdle to overcome was an agreement on a total spending number. On August 18th, Governor McCrory, Speaker Moore, President Pro Tem Berger, and Budget Chairs agreed on a compromised budget of $21.735 Billion. With this spend number set, Budget Chairs and Conferees then met to prioritize the specifics in the target area budgets. The following numbers were marked in on August 26th:
TOTAL GENERAL FUND - Compromise: $21.735 billion
Education - Compromise: $12.046 billion
Health and Human Services - Compromise: $5.12 billion
Justice and Public Safety - Compromise: $2.44 billion
Natural and Economic Resources - Compromise: $372 million
General Government - Compromise: $425.4 million
Salary and Benefits:
And while many media outlets are focused in on the price of an extended session, House Conferees are fighting hard to save $138 Million to fund Teaching Assistants, $26 Million to keep Driver Education available and affordable across the State, and millions more in education improvements.
This has been a long process, but Speaker Moore and the entire House Budget Conference team is committed to finding conservative solutions that responsibly invest in our future.
The House is Open for Business
While Senate Committees shut down in late July, House Committees have remained open and fully functioning: working on, debating, and moving bills.
Some notable bills that have seen discussion and movement recently:
SB-15: Unemployment Insurance Law Changes, a comprehensive agency bill for the Division of Employment Security, passed the House on August 20th. In addition to debt repayment, the Division is known for reforming agency protocol to institute more efficient and customer-friendly service.
SB-15 suspends a 20% surcharge for the calendar year 2016 if the Unemployment Insurance fund is at an agency standard $1 billion by March 1, 2016. Hitting this expected target will generate over $240 million in savings to employers and employees in 2016. The current balance of the UI Trust Fund sits at $748,750,000.
"Not only will this law deliver massive savings for employers and their employees, but it also shores up the reserve fund to $1 billion. This reserve will provide a source to fund interest payments on necessary federal advances so the State does not have to dip into the General Fund," said Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) in a press release. "Reforming the Unemployment Insurance Law allows us to both prepare for tough times and suspend a burdensome surcharge on businesses."
SB-378: Increase Punishment/Misdemeanor Death By Vehicle would create a new offense of Aggravated Misdemeanor Death by Vehicle, punishable as a Class A1 misdemeanor provided that a person convicted of this offense can be sentenced to an active punishment of no more than one year. A person commits the offense of aggravated misdemeanor death by vehicle if all of the following apply:
SB-378 saw some changes and then passed favorably out of the House Judiciary III Committee on August 26th.
SB-298: School Bus Cameras/Civil Penalties would allow counties to adopt ordinances imposing civil penalties for passing a stopped school bus when the violation is not criminally prosecuted, while also authorizing local boards of education to install and operate automated school bus safety cameras. The bill saw good debate and discussion in Judiciary III before passing favorably. SB-298 will now be reviewed by the House Appropriations Committee.
SB-652: Prohibit Re-Homing of an Adopted Minor Child, an act to prohibit the re-homing of an adopted minor child and make conforming statutory changes, saw more discussion in Judiciary III, with more work recommended.
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