2014-15 Budget

State lawmakers approved a $20.6 billion General Fund budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year and a $21.0 billion budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year by passing SB 402: Appropriations Act of 2013. The 2014 fiscal year budget represents a 1.9% increase over the continuation budget (or what was needed to maintain current service levels from the previous fiscal year). However, the budget spends 8.3 % less than the last state budget approved before the onset of the Great Recession (2008 fiscal year) when adjusted for inflation. The state budget is required by law to be balanced and includes both spending (allocations) as well as special provisions that impact all aspects of state government and programs. Below are highlights under the WNC Vote Tracker's categories of Education, Health & Safety, Environment, Economic Security, and Government & Democracy.

What is a "Continuation Budget"?

There are two primary ways to analyze the current budget and compare it to previous budgets. One method is to measure the budget against the dollars that were appropriated last year in the 2013 budget. The other method measures the budget against the “continuation budget,” which reflects the amount of money needed over the next year to maintain current service levels in our schools, police departments and other amenities that North Carolinians rely on every day. The governor’s Office of State Budget and Management works with the various departments and agencies to determine the continuation requirements.

This report [taken from the Budget and Tax Center Report] compares the current budget to the continuation budget, which provides a better basis for comparison because it accounts for the changing costs required to deliver the same level of services approved by the previous general assembly. For example, the continuation budget reflects school enrollment growth, debt service, and mandated rate increases for certain programs, such as Social Security.

Education:

Fully funds the enrollment growth in K-12 schools but makes noteworthy cuts—such as reducing funding for teachers and eliminating funding for 1 in 5 teacher assistants. 

Provides $10 million for children to attend private and religious schools through a voucher program.

Directs lottery receipts to fund 2,500 additional slots for kids in the NC Pre-K program, but that is less than 4,900 additional slots that were temporarily funded last year. 

Includes $7 million to create a school safety program in elementary and middle schools that trains and employs security officers.

Cuts $3.2 million from the National Board Certification Loan Program, which provides $2,500 loans to teachers pursuing certification to improve performance and achievement. Phases out the salary incentive for teachers and school staff who earn advanced degrees

Spending for community colleges falls $16.1 million, or 1.6%, short of what was needed  to continue today’s level of education services. Tuition increases to $71.50 per credit hour from $69 per credit hour.

Spending for University system falls $126.5 million short, or 4.7%, of what was needed  to continue today’s level of education services. The UNC Need-Based Financial Aid Program for moderate-income students is fully funded. There is one-time funding worth $4.5 million for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years for the NC Need-Based Scholarship Program for students attending private colleges.

Health & Safety:

The budget increases funding for Medicaid to cover enrollment growth, higher drug prices and other cost increases, but cuts the number of doctor visits it will pay for to 10 from 22, increases co-payments, and lowers reimbursement rates for providers.

Up to four of NC’s Children’s Developmental Services Agencies will close. These agencies provide physical and speech-language therapies for families and their children who  have developmental delays.

Cuts the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which helps people living with HIV afford expensive, life-saving drugs, by $8 million each year.

Provides $1.5 million to support adoptions through private non- profits, $1 million to connect children living in foster care with safe and permanent homes, and roughly $1.3 million to support maternity clinics and maternity homes.

Funds $1.8 million, plus a one-time $250,000, to expand the NC Child Treatment Program, which trains therapists to treat children and families facing serious psychological trauma or loss.

Creates 10 positions to conduct health and safety inspections of hospitals and abortion clinics.

Ends funding for four correctional facilities, one youth development center, and three youth and youth detention institutions, and converts one correctional facility to a minimum custody prison for a total cut of $28.8 million. The closings and conversion will eliminate 825 jobs and result from a declining prison population due, in-part, to the state’s Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA). The JRA, signed into law in 2011, is aimed at keeping ex-convicts from repeating offenses and returning to prison. The budget allocates $6.2 million to fund 75 new probation officer positions, since more offenders are now on probation and parole.

$500,000 is provided for a new multipurpose group home that will provide youth services that may be needed following the closure of Buncombe Detention Center .

The Division of Juvenile Justice receives $1 million to expand educational and vocational programs for juvenile offenders. There is $2 million in one-time funding for substance abuse treatment for offenders who are at high-risk for returning to prison.

The budget reclassifies certain low-level offenses to Class 3 misdemeanors punishable by fines instead of jail time.

Environment:

Removes existing members on the Environmental Management Commission and Coastal Resources Commission, allowing the Governor to appoint new members. Weakens conflict of interest requirements for members of the Environmental Management Commission.* 

Eliminates income tax credit for landowners who conserve their land through donation* and eliminates the Natural Heritage Trust Fund. 

Provides $10.4 million for the Clean Water Management Trust fund to finance rural water infrastructure redevelopment projects and conservation projects that  address water pollution problems. 

Sets aside $4 million to create a new division called the Water Infrastructure Authority, which will develop a new water and sewer database, provide grants to local communities, and administer existing special funds. The budget provides $4.9 million to match federal dollars for wastewater projects and $1.2 million for safe drinking water projects.

The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund gets $11 million to partially replace the deed stamp tax revenue that originally supported this trust fund but which the budget now directs to the General Fund.

Economic Security:

Spends nearly $624,000, or 0.5%t, above what was needed  to maintain current service levels in the Office of Indigent Defense, which provides legal representation for people who can’t afford an attorney. This includes a one-time $3.8 million appropriation to increase funding for private counsel representing indigent clients.

Eliminates the Displaced Homemaker Program, which provided job training and other services to people with barriers to self-sufficiency—such as a recently divorced or widowed low-income working parent. The funding is re-directed to the Domestic Violence Center Fund.

Cuts nearly $877,000 from for the Housing Trust Fund, which funds affordable-housing projects and helps ensure that families can pay for housing expenses and still pay for other necessities like food and clothing.

Government & Democracy:

Provides $10 million in one-time dollars to victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program, which operated from 1929-1974. The payments will be distributed equally to victims, with the total payment depending on how many victims come forward.

Provides $1 million to pay for the implementation of the new state law that requires North Carolinians to show a state-approved ID in order to vote. The state will spend nearly $390,000 for the maintenance and improvement of its election system, which will allow it to tap $4 million in federal funding through the federal Help America Vote Act.

Budget information comes from BTC Reports, August 2103, Vol. 19, Number 5, with the exception of “*” which comes from WNC Alliance.

Voting for SB 402
Rep. Roger West (R)
Rep. Michelle Presnell (R)
Rep. Chuck McGrady (R)
Rep. Tim Moffitt (R)
Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R)
Rep. Mike Hager (R)
Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R)

Sen. Jim Davis (R)
Sen. Tom Apodaca (R)
Sen. Ralph Hise (R)
Sen. Warren Daniel (R)
Sen. Dan Soucek (R)
Voting Against HB 402
Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D)
Rep. Susan Fisher (D)
Rep. Nathan Ramsey (R)
Rep. Josh Dobson (R)
Rep. Chris Whitmore (R)

Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D)
 
Not Voting