Governor Pat McCrory rolled out his proposed budget today as the General Assembly’s short session got underway.
"This is a very serious budget. It’s a tough budget, but it’s a budget that's concentrating on our priorities," said McCrory.
As promised, it includes pay raises for all state employees, additional money for pre-kindergarten, and hiring back a few environmental inspectors. But all of that comes with a cost.
WFAE’s Lisa Miller joins All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey:
MR: So how different is this budget from last year’s?
LM: There’s an additional $360 million of spending. A good chunk of that includes a 2 to 7 percent pay raise for all teachers and a $1,000 pay hike for all other state employees. It also adds a couple million to the state’s pre-kindergarten program for low-income children and doubles the amount of money for textbooks. And it allows many veterans to pay in-state tuition at the state’s community colleges and universities. Beyond education, McCrory’s budget sets aside more money for oil and gas exploration, adds back a small fraction of the environmental inspectors that were cut over the past five years, adds $43 million to the highway trust fund for repairs, and re-establishes drug treatment courts.
MR: And this is without raising taxes?
LM: Yes, and, well, actually it’s factoring in further tax cuts lawmakers agreed on last year.
MR: So that obviously means some cuts in other parts of the budget.
LM: Indeed, it does. One of the biggest cuts is to the UNC system. The governor wants to ask most of those schools to cut their budgets by 2-percent. He also wants to reduce spending on those centers and institutes within the UNC system that, as the Governor’s budget puts it, aren’t involved in degree production or central to the educational mission of the university.
MR: So what centers does that include?
LM: At this point, we don’t know what makes the cut as far as producing degrees or fitting in with a school’s mission. Now, the budget would also not add any new k-through-3 teacher assistants. A lot of these positions were cut last year, just as the state’s third grade reading law kicked into gear.
KK: What kind of reaction is he getting from state lawmakers?
LM: Well, House Speaker Thom Tillis called the governor’s budget a great starting point. Senate leader Phil Berger had the same sort-of tepid praise for it. He basically said we appreciate his leadership in crafting a balanced budget that prioritizes teacher pay and developing our domestic energy sector….and we’ll review it.