Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday outlined a proposed $22.3 billion state budget for 2016-17, which he plans to give to lawmakers when they convene in Raleigh next week.
The proposal would increase spending by 2.8 percent over the current budget, which could lead to some friction with legislative leaders. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Wednesday that a "responsible budget" would limit spending to 2 percent above existing levels.
"This is the executive branch's budget. We respect the separation of the branches in their effort," McCrory said at a news conference. "As we've done a great job during the past three years, we try to work out where we have differences, and I continue that good dialogue."
Complete details of McCrory's plan won't be spelled out until a Joint Appropriations Committee meeting at the legislature next Wednesday.
Berger released a statement saying McCrory "sets the right tone for controlling the growth of government spending" and that he looks forward to reviewing the proposal and working on "our shared priorities" during the budget process.
As usual, the bulk of the state budget would go to education, highlighted by an extra $426 million for teacher compensation in public schools. Drew Heath, McCrory's budget director, said teachers would receive an average raise of 5 percent, along with a one-time bonus of 3.5 percent, to boost average pay statewide to $50,000.
Veteran teachers, however, would receive smaller raises – some might not recent any raise – than younger teachers, similar to recent years.
"Every teacher will get at least a bonus," Heath said.
Most other state workers and retirees also wouldn't see any pay increase under McCrory's budget. The plan includes targeted raises for corrections officers, State Highway Patrol troopers and others in law enforcement and the courts system, along with setting aside $27 million to increase the salaries of some jobs where the state faces the toughest competition from the private sector for workers.
Other state employees would get a one-time 3 percent bonus, up to $3,000, while no cost-of-living adjustments are planned for retired state workers.
"This does not satisfy every interest group throughout north Carolina that has many needs, but it is prioritized where we think the needs are the highest priority," McCrory said. "What we're attempting to do is allow us to distribute money to areas where we have the highest retention issues and also the most difficult recruitment problems."
Although the budget proposal doesn't include any tax increases or new fees, it likewise doesn't include any tax cuts. Berger said Wednesday that lawmakers plan to continue their tax reform efforts by at least increasing the standard deduction on individual income tax returns.
Some of the other items included in the governor's budget are as follows:
- $350 million for the state's "rainy day" fund
- $155 million for repairs to state facilities
- $29 million to increase classroom technology, such as establishing Wi-Fi signals at every public school
- $30 million for substance abuse and mental health programs
- $2.5 million for drug treatment courts
- $4.6 million for improved technology in state prisons to prevent inmates from obtaining and using cellphones
- $3.6 million for personnel at the State Crime Lab to reduce case backlogs and to open a second lab in the western part of the state
- $750,000 to combat the Zika virus
University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings praised McCrory's efforts to spend more on education, but a group representing state workers criticized the proposal for giving only limited raises.
"Clearly, the governor needs to spend less time worrying about bathrooms and more time worrying about the employees who deliver important public services to North Carolina," the State Employees Association of North Carolina said in a statement. "This budget only furthers the notion that McCrory is out of touch."