Senate Budget Writers File Bill to Protect Teacher, Law Enforcement Salaries
Eighteen Other Bills Filed, Signaling Budget Priorities Ahead of Revenue Forecast
Raleigh, N.C. — Senate Budget Chairs Harry Brown (R-Onslow), Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), and Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) today introduced the Law Enforcement and Teacher Protection Act, and 18 other bills, each outlining a must-do appropriation for the legislative short session.
The Law Enforcement and Teacher Protection Act creates reserve accounts to fund salaries for teachers, police officers, and other critical North Carolina employees. During the last recession, teachers and law enforcement had their salaries cut or frozen to help fill budget deficits. These reserves will provide a mechanism to avoid repeating what the Democrats did during the last recession.
The bills do not yet have funding figures attached to them. That step will be taken once the legislature’s economist releases more estimates on the state’s revenue outlook, which will almost certainly be several billion dollars below projections from just a few months ago.
The intent in filing the bills now, before legislators have a clear revenue picture, is to signal to the press and the public as early as possible this session’s top funding priorities in the face of a multi-billion dollar revenue shortfall. Below is a list and brief synopsis of each item:
· Law Enforcement and Teacher Protection Act: This bill would create reserve accounts of salary funding for teachers, police officers, and other critical North Carolina employees. These salaries were cut or frozen during the last recession. We do not want that to happen again.
· ADM growth in K-12 schools: Every budget decision made will have as one consideration the absolute aversion to cutting education budgets and teacher salaries, which is what unfortunately happened during the last economic downturn. This appropriation will fund student enrollment growth at K-12 schools.
· UNC enrollment growth: This appropriation will fund student enrollment growth for UNC system schools.
· Community college enrollment growth: This item will fund student enrollment growth at community colleges.
· N.C. School of Science and Math-Morganton Campus: This appropriation will allow the new school to open by providing funds for operating expenses, purchase of equipment and supplies, and new positions.
· N.C. Promise tuition funds: This budget item will provide the funds necessary to continue the successful N.C. Promise program, which provides $500 in-state tuition at three North Carolina colleges.
· UNC building reserve: This funding is for the operation and maintenance of multiple buildings that will be completed in the next fiscal year.
· N.C. Agricultural Sciences Center: This appropriation will allow the center to open by funding moving costs, equipment, and personnel.
· Connect NC park facilities operating reserves: This funding is to open the park facilities that were expanded or improved through Connect NC bonds.
· Waste/Wastewater Public Enterprise Reform: This establishes a framework for the creation of a viable utility reserve, which will provide grants for distressed water and wastewater systems throughout North Carolina. This will be the first targeted program ever to address failing and distressed systems.
· Retirement contribution and debt service: This budget item will fund the state’s mandatory obligations to its retirement system and debt service.
· Medicaid transformation: This appropriation will fund the state’s transition to Medicaid managed care, which was passed into law in 2015. The transition must begin by January 1, 2021.
· Savings reserve: This item would transfer $623 million into the savings reserve in anticipation of major need next fiscal year and in acknowledgment of the uncertain revenue outlook.
· Western Carolina University steam plant: The university desperately needs funding to tend to its steam plant. This appropriation would provide that funding.
· Raise the Age: Over the past several years, appropriations have been made to renovate existing youth detention centers and build new ones to house juvenile offenders. This funding item would continue those projects.
· Department of Health and Human Services relocation: The Department must vacate its existing location by 2025, per an agreement with the City of Raleigh. This allocation would fund the Department’s work to relocate to another site.
· Repairs and Renovations for UNC and state agencies: This appropriation would fund standard maintenance on state-owned properties.
· Department of Information Technology and Western DATA Center improvements: This appropriation funds an upgraded HVAC, fiber, fire suppression system, backup water tank, and other needs.
· Military Affairs Commission funding: This item would provide funding for the Military Affairs Commission to continue operating. A BRAC commission is always a possibility, especially during times of federal austerity, and the Military Affairs Commission is vital to maintaining the defense industry’s major role in the North Carolina economy.