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Politics
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NC House Passes $22 Billion Budget

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Early Friday morning, North Carolina’s House of Representatives passed its $22 billion state budget. The final vote came just after 1 am. It capped off more than 9 hours of debate about the bill itself and nearly 50 amendments to the measure.

First, some budget highlights. The House budget increases state spending by a little over 6 percent. This includes:

  • A salary increase of 2 percent for most rank-and-file state employees. This includes all teachers. That point was stressed during the floor debate by Republican lawmakers.
  • Beginning teachers salaries are now $35,000 per year, an increase of $2,000. This is was a priority for Republican lawmakers. The salary increase is on top of whatever salary supplements provided by local school districts.
  • Partially restores the Historic Preservation Tax Credit which was cut in the last budget. The credit is for developers or individuals who rehabilitate, repurpose or restore qualifying older structures.
  • Increases North Carolina’s film and television production grant. The fund currently has a $10 million budget. Under the house budget that number increases to $40 million. The money is used to lure film and TV productions to the state. The old film incentive program that lawmakers gutted last year roughly paid out $60 million a year.
  • The budget increases fees paid for services at the Department of Motor Vehicles. These fees jump by roughly 30 percent across the board. Supporters say the money will be used to stabilize the state’s Highway Trust Fund.

Bipartisan Love And Hate For The Budget

The final vote was 94-23. Twelve Democrats voted no as did 11 Republicans. The bill has been criticized by conservative groups, including the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity. It believes the House budget gives out too many corporate handouts. During debate, Republican Nelson Dollar implored “every one of you to vote for this budget,” adding, “this budget provides for the needs of our people.”

House Minority Leader Larry Hall disagreed.

“I’m voting against this bill,” Hall said on the floor, “because I don’t think the status quo is good enough. I don’t think mediocrity is good enough. And I think the citizens of North Carolina expect more from you.” The final tally shows the majority of the body thought otherwise.

Amendment Was The Word Of The Night

The House considered nearly 50 amendments before finally voting on the budget. There was another flare-up over tax credits for solar energy projects. Those are set to expire at the end of this year. The bill extends those credits for two more years. Republican Marilyn Avila wanted to change that.

“The facts do not support solar as a viable long-term source,” she said while offering the amendment. Avila praised strides made in the efficient production of solar power. But she added, “we have neglected to develop an effective, efficient distribution of this power.”

Her amendment failed 38-77 after a lengthy debate. There was also an amendment to move $1 million in state money towards the start-up costs of charter schools in mostly rural areas, and use that to increase the number of teaching assistants. That too failed.

The budget debate now moves to the Senate, a much more conservative body, especially when it comes to tax credits. Senators will remake the bill to their liking, and then a joint committee from both the House and Senate will work out a compromise before voting on the budget and sending it  to the governor.