RALEIGH – The North Carolina Senate on Thursday voted to pass the state’s budget plan by 32 to 18, with four Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting the plan. Senators Ben Clark, D-Cumberland, Kirk DeViere, D-Cumberland, Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth and Don Davis, D-Greene supported the Senate budget.
Senate Bill 105 will require a second vote on Friday morning. Once the measure is approved by the Senate, debate on the state budget will move to the State Chamber.
The budget includes, among other things, $ 3 billion in cash for infrastructure projects over the next two years, as part of a 10-year $ 12 billion cash flow plan for infrastructure projects and fixed assets over 10 years. Senate leaders also focused on tax cuts, including lowering the personal income tax rate, increasing the $ 500 per child tax deduction and increasing the tax bracket. zero, or standard deduction, to $ 25,500 for married couples.
Senate Republicans believe tax reform measures would cut median household income tax payments by 37%
“Due to the state’s strong financial position after a decade of responsible governance, Senate budget writers may link historic tax cuts to a massive infrastructure program,” Senate Leader Phil Berger said , R-Rockingham, in a press release sent after the vote. “Responsible spending, wherever possible tax cuts and savings for rainy days have defined Republican budgets for 10 years, and the formula is working.”
Some Senate Democrats, however, have said the budget proposal does not take advantage of one-time federal pandemic relief money or excess revenue. They proposed eight amendments in an attempt to increase spending. Votes from the 28-22 party line helped Republicans table every Democratic amendment.
Senator Natalie Murdock, D-Durham, proposed an amendment to increase the wages of uncertified school employees to $ 15 per hour, instead of $ 13 per hour in the budget proposal. Senator Michael Garrett, D-Guilford, tried to change the budget to increase teachers’ salaries by 10%, rather than the proposed 3%.
At one point, Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, attempted to block the tabling of a colleague’s amendment by moving the adjournment of the meeting. This maneuver also failed with a 28-22 vote.
“The amount of money spent in this budget is already unprecedented,” Berger told the Senate after the failed votes on the amendments. “This budget, if you add it all up… you’re at about $ 33 billion. That’s an increase of about $ 8 billion through spending. Some people would think, “My God, that’s a lot,” but apparently it’s not enough. These changes add up to an additional $ 3.5 billion. The problem with this $ 3.5 billion is that it is a recurring expense. Not only will we have to deal with it in this biennium, but we will also have to deal with it for years to come. “
For education, the proposed budget would spend $ 10.4 billion in 2021-2022 and $ 10.5 billion in 2022-2023 for public education from kindergarten to grade 12. This amount includes a 3% increase for teachers over two years in addition to one-time bonuses of $ 300 and between $ 1,000 and $ 1,500 in additional bonuses from federal funds. In addition, non-certified school employees would see their wages increase to a minimum wage of $ 13 per hour.
The budget also allocates $ 40.9 million each year to ensure that every school district has at least one school psychologist. And it is allocating $ 6 million to fund the implementation of the Excellent Public Schools Act, designed to ensure that students read correctly by grade three.
Blue urged senators to use this year’s budget surplus and tax overrun for capital projects and other spending, saying it would boost North Carolina’s competitiveness in the global economy. He compared the spending suggestions to the investments China has made in its economic infrastructure.
“I hate that our state is missing this opportunity to catapult our state to compete with other states and countries around the world,” said Blue.
“When we have the opportunity to strengthen our courts, our judiciary … we have to seize that opportunity, and yet we are still talking about $ 14 billion over the next five years in tax breaks,” he continued.
The health care portion of the budget also includes nearly $ 34 million for the distribution of 1,000 additional waivers to fund personalized health care services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities instead of institutionalized care plans. It would also allow women with incomes up to 196% of the federal poverty rate to remain eligible for postpartum Medicaid coverage for a full 12 months. The Medicaid Transformation Fund, scheduled to roll out July 1, is also receiving hundreds of millions of dollars all at once to transition Medicaid to a managed care model.
Blue rebuffed the Republicans’ point that the state’s economic growth since Republicans took control of the legislature can be at least partially attributed to conservative fiscal policy. He pointed to the strong growth of the 2000s, when Democrats controlled North Carolina’s budget process.
“Yes, this decade was a decade of growth, but it was uneven growth, but we have to remember where we were at the end of the decade,” Berger replied. “The state had $ 2.5 billion in the hole because of exactly your philosophy that we see here – just write the check – and we know how it went. Teachers’ salaries were frozen. “People have been made redundant. We’ve seen this philosophy before, and it just doesn’t work.”