Raleigh, N.C. — The $22.34 billion budget lawmakers are vetting this week spares a local school geared toward children with serious emotional and other mental health issues but continues to delay regulations designed to limit pollution in Jordan Lake and Falls Lake.
Senators have already signed off on the bill, voting 36-14 Wednesday, while House leaders expect to vote Thursday and Friday. The measure will then go to Gov. Pat McCrory for his approval or veto.
Although the document is largely concerned with statewide funding for such things as teacher salaries and broad policy items, dozens of measures will affect particular communities, including those in the Triangle.
For example, it spares The Wright School, a Durham education center that helps treat emotionally troubled youth, from proposed budget cuts.
Budget writers also plowed more money into the crime labs based in Raleigh and Greensboro and provided grants to the Raleigh and Cary YMCAs. The towns of Wake Forrest and Garner will get grants to help revive their downtown areas.
Meanwhile, a long-running fight over water quality was once again at issue.
Lawmakers have been fighting for years over how to clean up Jordan Lake, a major water supply for the Triangle. Although the state put rules in place to curtail pollution years ago, lawmakers have delayed the implementation of those rules, which would force up-stream communities in the Triad to make expensive sewer system upgrades and curtail some development.
The Senate version of the budget would have turned to the cultivation of freshwater mussels to clean up the lake, an idea lambasted by environmentalists and scientists.
While the mussel provision was deleted in the final budget, lawmakers pushed back the implementation of the cleanup rules again. The same provision also delays cleanup rules for Falls Lake.
"Over 2.6 million people visited the state parks at Jordan and Falls lakes last year, and over 700,000 people depend on these lakes for drinking water supplies. Delaying the rules will only result in more preventable pollution flowing into the lakes," Sierra Club spokesman Dustin Chicurel-Bayard said. "The current rules should be allowed to go forward while the study is under way to keep the problem from getting worse."