Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina House of Representatives released its version of the state budget Sunday night – a $20.57 billion proposal that appears close to the Senate plan in terms of overall spending but deeply divided on issues of policy and priorities.
House budget subcommittees began reviewing and making changes to the budget on Friday. As already noted, the two chambers are divided on education policy as well as other items, such as whether to move the State Bureau of Investigation from the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Safety.
Overall, the House budget spends only $12 million less than the Senate did in the coming year. But it sets aside far less money for tax reform. It puts somewhat less money into education in order to plow more into the state's Medicaid program.
And the House's spending plan appears to contain far less policy than its Senate counterpart. The House budget bill is more than 100 pages shorter than the Senate bill.
The new fiscal year begins on July 1. Budget documents released Sunday night cover both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 budgets, although the legislature almost never lets that second-year budget stand without adjustment.
- The House spends slightly less than than Senate on education: $13 less million community college; $66 million more on K-12; $53 million less on university system in 2013-14.
- The House spends $36 million more than the Senate in the Health and Human Services budget area, apparently responding to increasing shortfalls in Medicaid.
- The House spends $24 million more on than the Senate on Justice and Public Safety programs.
The House budget gives state workers five vacation days but doesn't offer any raises. However, it does put back a salary supplement for teachers with advanced degrees that the Senate had stripped away.
Among the other notable items in the House budget:
- Contains $50,000 each for survivors of the state's eugenics program. This is a long-standing difference between the House and the Senate, going back to the last legislation session. Senate Republicans have consistently refused to back compensation for eugenics survivors, while House Speaker Thom Tillis has backed compensation in high-profile ways.
- Provides $464,100 to Parents for Education Freedom to develop charter schools in rural areas.
- Provides funding and policy language to create the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a $50 million, two-year pilot program that will give taxpayer funds for some low-income students to attend private schools.
- Gives a one-time $10 million boost the Community College System's equipment budget. This raises the total to $59 million in 2013-14, although that extra $10 million isn't there in 2014-15.
- Directs the North Carolina School of the Arts to start charging tuition and fees. This is the same as in the Senate budget.
- Eliminates the Child Fatality Task Force, a longstanding committee that has recommended changes to state child seat, helmet and other laws over the past decade.
- Raises tuition on out-of-state students on University of North Carolina system campuses. The increases would be 12.3 percent at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.
- Creates a $1.5 million per-year adoption promotion program.
- The House budget backs off a Senate plan that would have shifted low-income pregnant women off of Medicaid. The Senate plan would have subsidized private insurance for these women. The House budget maintains the current system.
- Spends $250,000 to replace trams at the North Carolina Zoo.
- Moves the state Energy Office from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
- Eliminates taxpayer support for the Wildlife Resources Commission but allows the commission to keep operating with other funds, such as fees.
- Provides $2.5 million to restore 69 state trooper positions that are currently vacant.
- Adds three positions to the Lieutenant Governor's Office, including a communications director, policy director and director of constituent services.
- Reduces funding for the state Ethics Commission by $22,434.
- Doubles the governor's One North Carolina Fund grant from $14 million to $28 million for the two-year cycle.
- Provides funding from the gas tax for dredging of coastal inlets.
- Provides $1.4 million for 2013-14 to extend office hours at Division of Motor Vehicles locations.
- Boosts funding for transportation services at the High Point Furniture Market to $1.2 million per year.
- Anticipates reducing ferry tolls by allowing the toll system to use alternatives, such as selling advertising.
- Eliminates the public campaign finance fund. This is a similar provision to the Senate.
- Raises the fees for lobbying principals registration fees from $100 to $250.
- Adds five vacation days, but no raises, for state employees.
- Puts back a salary supplement for teachers who earn master's or doctoral degrees. That provision is on page 286 of the budget bill. The Senate budget eliminated this. It appears a conflicting provision in the House budget may eliminate the pay boost in the second year of the budget (2014-2015), but it's not clear based on the plan language of the bill.
- Mandates the closure of Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill by Aug. 1.