House budget plan modest, targeted

Posted May 14, 2015

While many details of the state House's budget remain incomplete, the broad outlines of the nearly $22 billion proposal unveiled Thursday morning in committees show few major changes in the state's largest spending areas, education and health care, aside from targeted investment in specific expansion items.

In education, overall spending increased by a little over 3 percent. The funding plan accounts for enrollment growth in public K-12 schools as well as universities and community colleges. As drafted, the plan would put more money into a pair of scholarship programs that help poor and disabled students attend private schools, put more money into textbooks and restore funding for driver's education in the state's high schools.

North Carolina seal House plan highlights mental health, courts, hospice and foster care High School Classroom House budget writers want to boost scholarship, textbook funding Health spending also increased modestly. The biggest expansions are around $30 million in additional funding for mental health, $20 million in one-time money to help spur development of community hospice facilities and about $6 million to expand foster care programs. Growth in Medicaid enrollment, known as the "rebase," would add about $287 million, or 7.8 percent over last year's state Medicaid budget.

Some policy areas saw substantial funding increases. The plan would invest tens of millions of dollars in prison mental health, for example, and would set aside millions for port maintenance and improvements. The court system would receive $12 million for information technology improvements.

The plan also includes placeholders for some major policy initiatives that have yet to be decided. The Health and Human Services budget sets aside $2.5 million for Medicaid reform, although lawmakers have not yet decided what form the overhaul will take and Senate leaders have talked about a much larger set-aside for Medicaid reform. The Transportation budget sets aside $50 million for debt service for 2016-17 for the transportation bond that Gov. McCrory is seeking, even though lawmakers haven't yet agreed to put the issue before voters.

Some big questions still remain unanswered, such as raises for state employees and teachers and the restoration of the medical expense tax credit for senior citizens. Those items were not among the budget sections unveiled Thursday. They're in a separate area of the budget that won't be available until the full document is rolled out late Sunday or early Monday.


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