LEGISLATIVE REPORT - March 12, 2019
On March 6th, Governor Roy Cooper released his $25.2 billion budget proposal for the coming biennium, a proposal he claims would provide “visionary investments” in education, health care, and infrastructure. Among other provisions, the Governor’s budget includes:
- a 9.1 percent average raise for teachers over the next two years;
- state employees’ raises of 1.5 percent or $500, whichever is greater, in each of the next two years;
- $500 more per year, on top of the state employee raise, for law enforcement officers, corrections officers, people who work in state hospitals, and non-certified school employees;
- a one-time 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees;
- an expansion of Medicaid to include health coverage for low-income working adults;
- asking for voter approval next year to fund a $3.9 billion bond towards school construction and local infrastructure projects;
- $30 million to pay community college tuition for students being trained in high demand fields, such as architecture, construction, health sciences, information technology, electrical line work and manufacturing;
- $6.5 million to remove the $50 fee teachers must pay for a substitute in order to take a personal leave day;
- $5 million to provide free school breakfasts and lunches to students who qualify;
- $6 million over the next two years to analyze untested rape kits in evidence statewide;
- $288 million in bonds to move the Department of Health and Human Services offices out of Dix Park and to expand a state lab for more water and air quality testing;
- $15 million to Medicaid to expand treatment options for opioid abuse; and
- $1 million grants towards local food banks.
The Governor’s budget also calls for eliminating the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund (SCIF), which lawmakers set up several years ago to receive 4 percent of state revenue annually and a quarter of any budget surpluses. Instead, Cooper's budget calls for directing $50 million cash into a repair and renovation reserve and $200 million into the Capital Improvements Project Reserve. Other construction needs, including public schools and universities, would be funded by a $3.9 billion bond measure that would require voter approval, as well as $288 million in limited obligation bonds.
Republican leaders were quick to dismiss the proposal. "This is not a serious budget proposal. It is a political document that seems designed to cater to the governor's tax-and-spend base that put us in a hole 10 years ago," Senate Appropriations Committee co-chairs Harry Brown, Kathy Harrington, and Brent Jackson said in a joint statement. "Governor Cooper seems to want our children to pay for his reckless spending habits." "I invite the governor to submit a revised proposal to the General Assembly that shows he is as serious about balancing budgets as North Carolina families and businesses have to be, instead of using his recommendations as a political game," Senior House Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman Jason Saine, said in a statement.
The Governor stopped short of saying he would sign a budget only if it contains Medicaid expansion, his #1 policy priority this session, but he did suggest the issue could keep session going far beyond the late June or early July adjournments of the past few years. "There are some issues that are critically important to our state and Medicaid is one of them," he said. "So we're going to have to be here a long time to make sure that happens."
In addition to the release of the Governor’s budget, committees are meeting in full force with a full slate of hearings every day and bills now moving through the process.
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