Governor McCrory presented his budget to the NC General Assembly today. It is a proposed general fund budget totaling $20.6 billion with more than half earmarked for education. The McCrory budget does not include tax increases and has no in-state tuition increases at UNC system schools. He specifically noted that his office is still working on tax reform, possibly signaling on-going differences between the NC Senate pre-proposal of eliminating corporate and personal taxes, the bulk of our state revenue, and a position McCrory Budget Director Art Pope has said he does not endorse. Another “pass’ on tax reform from the Governor tells me that all the talk of comprehensive tax reform really means we will see bits and pieces.
McCrory included a one percent raise for state employees and K-12 teachers. But North Carolina, in state-by-state teacher salary rankings, sits at 48th in the country. McCrory’s favorable comments about teachers and desire to do more for teachers seems to conflict with the new education bill Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger set forth. More debate to come on education.
McCrory included $43 million over two years to enhance digital learning and technology in public schools but is that enough to put tablets in hand and does it matter without a comprehensive approach to broadband in our State? He also included $60 million for programs to prepare students for jobs where they “fix and create things.”
1,800 additional teachers over next 2 years
Increased investment in early childhood education with $52 million
5,000 new pre-K slots
$10 million for victims of the state’s eugenics program, a program that sterilized people decades ago
$7.2 million to restore drug treatment courts plus funding for DNA testing capabilities to the state crime lab, a new DNA and toxicology lab
$28 million over two years for increasing technical education programs at community colleges
$32 million over two years to develop high-cost college programs for in-demand jobs, including mechanics and electronics
$63 million over two years for the UNC system’s strategic plan
$2.7 million per year for comprehensive branding strategy – McCrory needs to stop saying “Right now, we’re focusing on fixing a broken government, building an economy in North Carolina and transforming education.” That does not fit with branding! Use existing resources
-Significant cuts to UNC system. Budget is now $2.577 billion, proposal is $2.520 billion
-Funds for additional Magistrates are good but the real need for the NC Courts is additional District Court Judges
-Continued inadequate funding for the Courts which represent a unified system of justice
-Thanks to the big money of Citizens United, we now have: Repeal of NC Public Campaign Fund, NC Political Parties Financing Fund
-Significant cuts to the NC Rural Center and NC Biotech date back to personal vendettas from the days of yore. Both entities are critical players in overall State of NC economic development. The Rural Center focus on rural areas is appreciated by Mayors and Main Streets statewide. Loss of critical programs within these non-profit organizations will be felt in local areas and an overall state branding strategy.
Overall, I am pleasantly surprised at many of the targets for investment. The debate on tax reform and education investment will continue as the process begins. I was happy to hear a more dignified and proper presentation to the people of our State, after loose language in the State of the State and a music video intro to the budget. As a former Deputy Director at the Courts who presented the Courts budget to the legislature, I grow more and more concerned about the lack of funding for this branch of government, especially the basic infrastructure for information technology.
Cross-Post: NC Spin
Jeanne Milliken Bonds is a PR Consultant, Political Analyst and NC Spin Commentator