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McCrory budget includes 5% teacher pay raise

Gov. Pat McCrory announced a state budget Friday that includes a 5 percent teacher pay raise and bonuses averaging 3 percent  for all state employees and school support staff.

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“My budget invests dollars where they matter most by spending on key priorities that have the biggest impact on North Carolinians and their families,” McCrory said. “These investments build on our commitment to strengthen education, enhance public safety, improve the health of our citizens, build new roads that connect our communities, all while reforming government to make it more accountable and efficient.”

McCrory’s proposed budget would represent a 2.5 percent increase in recurring spending over the last budget, which had a 3.1 percent increase.
McCrory said he was focused on preparing the state financially for the next time there is an economic slump, even though it doesn’t win him a lot of “political points.”
“We are going to ensure the state has a safety net for future economic swings,” McCrory said. “I am going to make sure that we have a sufficient rainy day fund. Our budget is also going to be preparing for future growth.”
McCrory said that, with 281 people moving to the state each day, preparations need to be made to keep up with the growth.
“We now have over 10 million people,” he said. “I firmly believe as a leader that you need to prepare for growth rather than react to growth.”
McCrory had high praise for his administration and his budget team in putting together the budget. “I don’t know of any team in the united states of America and any team that in the history of the state has made the progress that this team has made,” he said.

Highlights of the governor's budget proposal:

Budget Management
• No tax or fee increases proposed.
• Increases the total savings reserve account to $1.4 billion, or nearly 7 percent of overall state spending, by adding $300 million to the state’s rainy day fund. Since 2013, North Carolina has nearly tripled the savings reserve, making it the largest in state history.
• Caps total spending at $22.3 billion, representing a spending increase of 2.8 percent. This increase is below last year’s increase of 3.1 percent and below the rate of population growth plus inflation.

Education
• Increases average teacher pay in North Carolina to more than $50,000 for the first time in state history by providing an average 5 percent pay increase.
• Provides an average 3.5 percent bonus for teachers and principals, with a greater share going to veteran teachers. This will equate to a $5,000 bonus for teachers with more than 24 years of service.
• Establishes a scholarship program by investing $2 million to attract 300 new, highly qualified math and science teachers to earn degrees and teach math and science in the state’s public schools.
• Builds on the commitment to position North Carolina as one of the first states in the nation to connect all classrooms to robust wi-fi by 2018, empowering schools to trade textbooks for tablets.
• Expands funding by nearly $6 million to provide scholarships for an additional 300 special needs students.
• Provides support services to ensure community college students graduate with a credential or degree.
• Establishes a new competitive merit scholarship program for students pursuing science, math and health degrees at NC universities to help fill the shortage of skilled workers in these fields.

Public Safety
• Devotes $21 million to increasing pay for State Troopers, Correctional Officers, State Bureau of Investigation Agents, Alcohol Law Enforcement Agents, Assistant District Attorneys, and Assistant Public Defenders.
• Enhances the safety of children at school by investing $2.8 million to support the development and maintenance of school safety plans and to deploy a statewide application for students to anonymously report threats at school.
• Connects military veterans with jobs by establishing a new disabled veteran cyber-security apprenticeship program with the Department of Information Technology.
• Uses technology to detect and prevent prisoner access to cell phones.
• Safeguards law enforcement communications by replacing the outdated monitoring system for the Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders (VIPER) network enabling law enforcement to more effectively communicate and respond during emergencies.
• Improves criminal justice intelligence capabilities by investing in a case management tool that gives law enforcement officers information and analytics to solve crimes.

Jobs and Competitiveness
• Revitalizes North Carolina’s small town main streets through matching grants for local governments.
• Implements recommendations from the Governor’s Food Manufacturing Task Force to promote and develop economic growth opportunities in the food manufacturing industry, and fosters the growth, development and sustainability of family farms.
• Helps North Carolinians learn and earn at the same time by expanding business apprenticeship opportunities through additional investments in the NCWorks Apprenticeship Program.
• Leverages NC university research advantage to attract venture capital and a new generation of entrepreneurs, as well as help retain North Carolina’s home-grown talent through the University Innovation Commercialization Grant Program, as recommended by the Governor’s Innovation to Jobs initiative.
• Establishes the Rallying Investors and Skilled Entrepreneurs (NC RISE) program to develop and leverage existing entrepreneurial management talent and recruit world-class investors and skilled entrepreneurs to the state, as recommended by the Governor’s Innovation to Jobs initiative.

Public Health
• Invests $30 million to implement the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use, including transitional housing, case management, mental health first aid training, child crisis centers, tools to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, as well as evidence-based specialty courts, including drug and veteran treatment courts.
• Provides $3 million to expand Medicaid services for older adults, including those with Alzheimer's disease, by adding 320 new slots to the Community Alternatives Program for Disabled Adults.
• Increases funding by $1 million for family caregiver support services, including respite care for caregivers.
• Invests $2.5 million to expand Medicaid services for people with developmental disabilities and children with Autism. This investment supports an additional 250 Medicaid Innovations Waiver slots providing the needed services to help individuals with developmental disabilities live successful lives in the community.
• Provides recurring funding to support the education of future health care professionals at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
• Makes North Carolina a national leader in preventing, preparing for and responding to the Zika virus and other vector borne diseases.

Transportation and Infrastructure
• Provides $155 million for the Repairs and Renovations Account to maintain state infrastructure.
• Supports implementation of the Connect NC initiative.
• Preserves environmental resources and promotes good stewardship by investing vital water resource projects including: dredging, navigation, flood control, beach protection and stream restoration. State investment in water resources projects will leverage more than $25 million in federal funds.
• Builds on the largest transportation investment in two decades by adding nearly $30 million for new transportation projects in the state’s current ten-year plan. Since 2013, North Carolina has increased investment in new roads by more than $292 million, or 31 percent.
• Provides an additional $27.5 million for highway maintenance activities to enhance safety and ease congestion.

Transparency and Security
• Promotes transparency and accountability by implementing an updated and integrated online education program for individuals covered under the State Ethics Act.
• Protects the public against identity theft and data loss by providing tools to create a multilayer identity verification platform in the Department of Revenue.

State Employees
• Provides an average 3 percent bonus for all state employees and school support staff. Each agency head in consultation with OSHR will determine the allocation.
• Provides an additional $27 million to the Salary Adjustment Fund, for a total of $40 million to help recruit and retain the best and brightest state employees.

A report by John Peter Zenger News Foundation