The N.C. General Assembly has approved the state’s spending plan for fiscal year 2014-15.
The Republican-written $21.25 billion budget was approved by the Senate shortly after midnight on Friday, Aug. 1, and the House on Saturday, Aug. 2.
Sen. Dan Soucek (Boone) and Rep. Jonathan Jordan (Jefferson) voted in favor of the budget.
The spending plan is now in the hands of Gov. Pat McCrory, who signalled that he intends to sign off on the budget in a statement released Friday.
“It’s a victory for the people of North Carolina,” McCrory said. “I laid out specific parameters throughout this process, including a significant pay increase for teachers, no reduction of teacher assistants, preservation of Medicaid eligibility standards and no tax increases, and this budget does just that. I’d like to thank the dedicated staff and the General Assembly for the countless hours of work that was put into this budget.”
Among the items missing from budget are a solution to the coal ash disposal problem and puppy mill reform, as well as Medicaid reform, which will be worked on during a special session this November, under a provision established in the budget bill.
The budget does allocate $282 million for a 7 percent pay increase for public school teachers, as well as $18.7 million to restore salary supplements for teachers with advanced degrees, who were enrolled in school prior to Aug. 1, 2013.
Teachers who are in their first, second, third or fourth year teaching currently make $30,800 per year. Under the new budget plan they will make $33,000 per year. The average teacher salary increases every five years.
An earlier spending plan proposed in the Senate would have eliminated certain teacher assistant positions to fund the salary increase for teachers. Those positions are still safe under the spending plan passed over the weekend.
Full-time employees at community colleges across the state will see a $1,236 increase in salary. Tuition at community colleges, however, will increase by 50 cents per credit hour to $72 for in-state students and $264 for nonresidents.
Health and Human Services
Rates for some health care providers will be reduced by 1.0 percent starting Jan. 1, 2015. It’s estimated that the reduction will result in $7 million in savings. The reduced rates apply to all fee-for-service health care providers with some exceptions like inpatient hospital services and nursing homes.
State funding for driver education classes in public schools ($26 million per year) will be a thing of the past come July 2015. Students will pay as much as $65 this year, and that figure will increase once state funding is eliminated next year.
Wait times at Division of Motor Vehicles offices could be trimmed in the future, as the budget calls for the hiring of 14 new driver’s license examiners in the coming year.
Highway use taxes for vehicle sales will remain the same. An earlier proposal in the Senate called for a cap increase on taxes charged for commercial and recreational vehicles, along with vehicles transferred from out-of-state.
Some of the other provisions included in the budget are listed below:
• Victims of the state’s bygone forced sterilization program will begin receiving monetary compensation beginning Oct. 31 of this year. From 1933-1973, over 7,600 North Carolinians who were deemed to be “mentally defective or feeble-minded,” were either forced or coerced into being sterilized by a state eugenics board.
• The use of drones by state and local governments, without special permission, is prohibited until Dec. 31, 2015. Also outlined in the budget are regulations and penalties for the unlawful use of drones.
• School principals will now be required to release information about bullying and cyberbullying to staff, students and parents at the start of each school year. Schools will also be required to carry emergency epinephrine injectors to treat serious, life-threatening allergic reactions.
• Retirees of the Teachers’ and State Employees Retirement System, Judicial Retirement System and Legislative Retirement System will receive a 1 percent cost of living increase.
• The bill provides $18.3 million in operating funds for new veterans’ homes in Black Mountain and Kinston.
For more information and details on the budget, visit the General Assembly’s website at www.ncleg.net.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.