Pete's Prep: Tuesday, May 29, 2018

NC legislative leaders release budget

Last evening, Republican leaders unveiled their $23.9 billion budget proposal, and the outrage on NC political Twitter was swift.


Meanwhile, reporters raced through hundreds of pages of budget documents, trying to find newsworthy items and changes.

This is not a good way to the conduct budget process. 

Unfortunately, Democrats are not the people to make that case. 

Particularly those who have been around for a while.

Like Wayne Goodwin - the Chairman of the NC Democratic Party - who tweeted this:


Goodwin was in the House from 1996 through 2004. For virtually all of that time, the Speaker of the House was Jim Black.

Speaker Black - who eventually went to prison for corruption - ran the budget process so badly that even progressive NC Policy Watch objected:

Even for good-faith negotiators, the temptation to feather one’s political nests or that of allies or favored causes is strong when budgets are crafted in secret. It’s unlikely that Basnight, Black and last year’s co-speaker of the House, Richard Morgan, could have gotten through a $14 million fund in the 2004-05 budget that they personally controlled were it not for hush-hush maneuvering. And while a small group might be needed to negotiate over the budget sticking points that invariably arise, there ought to be some means of ensuring that ordinary legislators can have meaningful input.

In that light, it’s unfortunate that Speaker Black is trying to mothball a bill by Republican Rep. John Rhodes of Mecklenburg County that would allot House members a day — an entire day! — to review the massive budget before a vote on passage. Black has referred the bill to the Rules Committee, where it can be expected to meet a quiet death.

Dan Way at the Carolina Journal has a good write-up examining the benefits and pitfalls of running budgets like this:

Republican legislative leaders’ decision to hold secretive budget deliberations was bad politics, and could further motivate angry Democrats to flood the voting booth this fall, political observers say.

GOP leaders counter that the budget they unveiled Monday night (links here) merely makes some minor adjustments in the two-year agreement enacted last year. In their view, Democrats used similar tactics when they had a lock on the General Assembly. And the spending plan for the upcoming year is fiscally sound, including higher pay for teachers and state employees, more tax cuts, and a boost in state rainy-day savings — a tough budget to reject in an election year, Republicans say.

Even so, analysts say the choice to offer the budget as a conference committee report, allowing no amendments, gives Republicans, with supermajority margins in both legislative chambers, a tactical advantage.

The process matters. It should be open for debate and amendments.

There should be a longer opportunity for public review.

Republicans are hypocrites for doing the budget this way, after criticizing the abuses of Democratic leaders in the past.

Democrats are hypocrites for objecting now that they don't control the process.

As for the spending plan, itself... you can see the full budget here.

House Speaker Tim Moore posted some highlights:

In Salaries and Benefits –

  • Provides an average 6.5 percent pay raise for teachers, which will bring the average increase to teachers’ base pay to nearly 20 percent since the 2013-14 school year.
  • Allocates nearly $12 million to provide a permanent salary increase to veteran teachers with more than 25 years of experience.
  • Directs an additional $22 million toward performance-based bonuses to top-performing 4th and 5th grade reading teachers and 4th-8th grade math teachers whose students achieve the most academic growth.
  • Funds a 6.9 percent increase to the principal salary schedule, which will bring the total increase to principals’ base pay to 13.1 percent since the 2016-17 school year.
  • Provides performance bonuses for principals whose students achieve the most academic growth. Under the agreement, principals could earn bonuses of up to $20,000 on top of their base salaries.
  • Includes more than $28 million to provide a 2 percent pay raise to other school employees.
  • Offers a 2 percent permanent salary increase for most state employees and a one-time cost-of-living supplement for retirees.
  • Raises the minimum salary for all permanent, full-time state employees to at least $31,200.
  • Funds a new pay plan for State Highway Patrol troopers that will raise starting pay to $44,000 and provide troopers a roughly eight percent average pay raise. The new plan will also accelerate the timeframe for a trooper to get to top pay to six years.
  • Includes roughly $22 million to provide correctional officers working in state prisons a four percent salary increase. The budget also expand the covered population for the line of duty death benefit, and double the benefit’s value from $50,000 to $100,000, ensuring all families of the victims from recent prison attacks receive that benefit.
  • Allocates $20 million for pay raises for public university employees and $24 million for community college employees.

In Education –

  • Increases funding for public education by nearly $700 million.
  • Fully funds K-12, community college and public university enrollment growth.
  • Provides $35 million for school safety initiatives, including new grant programs to support students in crisis, school safety training, safety equipment and youth mental health personnel.
  • Invests an additional $11.9 million in textbooks and digital resources, bringing the total annual state funding for textbooks to $73.9 million – a $71.4 million increase from the last Democrat-authored budget.
  • Directs additional lottery funds toward grants to economically struggling, rural counties to assist with critical public school building needs.
  • Maintains smaller class sizes in core academic subjects and keeps a new salary allotment for kindergarten through fifth grade program enhancement teachers – like music, art and physical education – beginning next school year.
  • Increases funding to Eastern North Carolina STEM.
  • Doubles the number of local school districts eligible to participate in the “TA to Teacher” program that helps teacher assistants receive training to become teachers.
  • Protects the Read to Achieve, Teach for America, and Communities in Schools programs from being cut by the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Allocates close to $15 million to community colleges for workforce training programs.
  • Fully funds the N.C. Promise Program, which guarantees in-state undergraduate students at three schools across the state pay just $500 per semester for tuition.
  • Includes new funding for medical education, including funding increases to the UNC School of Medicine’s Asheville campus.
  • Increases funding for Children with Disabilities Scholarship Grants by more than $3 million to reduce the waitlist.

In Health and Human Services –

  • Provides over $18 million to add 3,525 new pre-K slots – and includes a plan to eliminate 100 percent of the state’s waitlist for at-risk children by 2021.
  • Directs $60 million from the Medicaid Transformation Reserve to be used for start-up costs related to Medicaid Reform’s program design.
  • Establishes LME-MCO solvency standards to strengthen the state’s mental health system.
  • Appropriates $5 million for the new Broughton Hospital to add 85 beds and create up to 169 staff positions.
  • Increases the Child Care Subsidy amount for children from ages birth through five so they have access to most child care centers in the most economically distressed counties. Child care subsidy rates are also increased for children ages 3 to 5 in Tier 3 counties.
  • Reduces the Child Care Subsidy Waitlist by providing nearly $20 million in federal block grant funds to serve an estimated 3,700 additional children.
  • Provides an additional $8.5 million from the Low-Income Energy Assistance block grant to help pay heating bills for the elderly and disabled populations.
  • Sets aside $6 million for the construction of a new TROSA Facility (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, Inc.) in the Triad area and $1.4 million for a facility-based crisis center in Wilkes County.

In Justice and Public Safety –

  • Funds the changes necessary to “raise the age” in North Carolina, ensuring 16- and 17-year olds suspected of misdemeanor offenses and less serious felonies will be tried as juveniles instead of adults by December 2019.
  • Allocates $15 million for safety and security upgrades in state prisons.
  • Provides funding to begin a multi-year project that will create an integrated e-Courts technology system.
  • Establishes the “Criminal Justice Fellows” program to provide forgivable loans to aid in the recruitment of future law enforcement officers seeking an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice.

In Taxes and Economic Development –

  • Reduces the tax burden on North Carolina families and small businesses by cutting the personal income tax rate from 5.499 to 5.25 percent in 2019, and by increasing the amount of income that is exempt from state income tax.
  • Lowers the corporate income tax rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent in 2019, continuing the business tax reforms that have helped create more than half a million new jobs since Republicans took control of the state legislature in 2011.
  • Enables a company that commits to investing at least $1 billion and creating at least 3,000 new jobs in North Carolina to be eligible for a transformative project award under the state’s Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) program.
  • Modifies the award that is available to large economic projects to make certain that the positive impact of those major job recruitments is felt by the entire state.

In Agriculture and the Environment –

  • Sets aside more than $10 million to provide access to clean drinking water for those impacted by GenX contamination and to fund the state’s efforts to address these emerging compounds and their threat to safe drinking water.
  • Allocates more than $22 million for Farmland Preservation, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
  • Provides funding to purchase dredging equipment to ensure valuable economic activity at the North Carolina coast can continue, with a potential economic impact of up to $500 million in Dare County alone.
  • Designates over $3.5 million in match funding that will leverage an additional $15 million in federal funding to improve the state’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.

In Transportation –

  • Allocates $135 million for the Strategic Transportation Investments Program (STIP).
  • Invests $50 million to fund immediate need construction projects across the state that improve mobility and safety, reduce congestion and spur economic development.
  • Includes $104 million for a Roadside Environmental Fund dedicated to ensuring the safety and beautification of the state’s highways.

Elsewhere –

  • Establishes the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program to address broadband needs in the state’s rural areas.
  • Aims to make government operations more efficient by investing in a fully-consolidated statewide Enterprise Resource Planning system.
  • Funds needed improvements to the Coastal Carolina Veterans’ Cemetery.
  • Adds $155 million for capital projects and $65 million to make needed repairs and renovations to state and university facilities.

Greenville news crew killed in storm

A TV reporter and a cameraman were killed yesterday, when a tree fell onto their news vehicle as they were driving on Highway 176 near Tryon, NC.

The two men were from WYFF out of Greenville, and were covering the affects of the storm affecting the area over the Memorial Day weekend.

From the New York Times:

The anchor, Mike McCormick, and the photojournalist, Aaron Smeltzer, worked for WYFF News 4 based in Greenville, S.C., and were about 30 miles north of there in North Carolina on Monday afternoon when the authorities say the tree struck their S.U.V. as they drove along Highway 176.

When fire personnel arrived around 2:30 p.m., they found the S.U.V. in drive with the engine running, Chief Geoffrey Tennant of the Fire Department in Tryon, N.C., told local news media.

Chief Tennant said that Mr. McCormick had interviewed him just 10 minutes before the department got a call about the accident.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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