FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday — September 22, 2015
Senator Erica Smith-Ingram Outlines the 2015-17 Budget Plan
Raleigh, NC – On Friday, by a vote of 118–36, the NC General Assembly (the Senate and House combined) voted on the biennial budget. With any budget, there are good appropriations and not enough attention to some issues. The ratified budget was made available on yesterday, and I am reaching out to you today to share with you some highlights and targets for future work. As your Senator, I voted for this budget because it is a progressive plan that will move District 3 and the State of North Carolina forward. While I didn’t like the $750 one-time bonus for state employees and teachers, the only other option was nothing at all. Main Street Democrats will work diligently during the short-session in May to dedicate budget surplus revenues to fund a significant pay raise for teachers and state employees. While it is not a perfect budget, I sincerely believe that northeastern North Carolina is better served with this budget than the previous version. I am particularly proud of the State Broadband, Driver’s Education funding, NCWorks and the portions of the budget in which I was most directly involved.
· Broadband – The bill that I introduced, S615 – Rural Broadband Infrastructure that tasks the state CIO, through its Office of Digital Infrastructure, and with the assistance of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Administration, the Department of Commerce, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte was placed in this year’s budget. This portion of the bill will develop a State broadband plan that ensures all citizens of North Carolina access to broadband capability. It further develops a statewide strategic plan that promotes a robust broadband infrastructure. Additionally, $14 million over the biennium is being invested to insure connectivity in all of our schools.
· Distribution Sales Tax for Economic Development – All of the counties in District 3 receive additional sales tax revenue: a combined total of at minimum $10 million for District 3.
· Historic Preservation Tax Credit – Restored and appropriated $8 million to invest in revitalization especially in our rural areas.
Elizabeth City State University – $3 million is appropriated per year for stabilization funds to Elizabeth City State University.
Grassroots Science Program – Funds appropriated to the Department of Commerce for Tier 1 counties awarding grants to science museums located in economically distressed areas.
· Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Lake Maintenance Fund – This will be a significant step in addressing the hydrilla and dredging issues in several counties of our District.
· Department of Military and Veterans Affairs – Providing the necessary tools and resources for veterans who have served our country and protected our freedom. Appropriations for the biennium is $17,343,249.
· Deleted Harmful Provision Ending Retirement Health Benefits for State Employees Hired After January 1, 2016 – The previous version
· NCWorks – NC Works Career Coach Program to place community college career coaches in high schools to assist students with determining career goals and identifying community college programs that would enable students to achieve these goals
· Eugenics Compensation Payments – Qualified recipients will receive compensation. (added this)
· $300 million for economic development grants – Implemented through various provisions including restored appropriations for minority and small-businesses and Community Development Block Grants.
· State Highway Patrol – Beginning July 1, 2015, the salaries of all sworn members of the State Highway Patrol were increased by three percent (3%) as well as the starting pay for an entry-level position in the State Highway Patrol is increased by three percent (3%).
· Body-Worn Cameras – Provides $2.5 million for matching grants to local and county law enforcement agencies to purchase and place into service body-worn video cameras and for training and related expenses
· Budget funds mental health reforms in some prisons – A projected $12 million over the next two years is appropriated to expand the mental health facility at Central Prison in Raleigh and create eight treatment units at maximum-security prisons across the state. This funding will provide for 218 new positions within these new facilities, with hiring divided roughly in half between 2015 and 2016.
· Teacher Pay – Allocation of approximately $313 million for compensation increases to State employees including a $750 bonus for all state employees and step increases to teachers, assistant principals, principals, State Highway Patrol Troopers, clerks and magistrates. I will work diligently during the short-session in May to dedicate budget surplus revenues to fund a more significant and comprehensive pay raise for teachers and state employees.
· Driver’s Education Funding – I sponsored a Driver’s Education bill, S515, and am proud to see that part of this budget includes my bill. It funds driver’s education programs to all physically and mentally qualified persons who are older than 14 years and six months, are approved by the principal of the school, are enrolled in public, private or homeschooled high school within the State and have not previously enrolled in the program.
· Teacher Assistant Allotments – I worked tirelessly in advocating for Teacher Assistants to remain in our budget. I am especially proud that my and other legislators’ efforts were successful. The budget provides local school administrative units the dollar equivalent of teacher assistant positions.
· Nonpermanent Retirees Returning May Retain Their Coverage – retirees returning to work for the State may retain their coverage options under the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees
NC Senate District 3
Bertie, Chowan, Edgecombe, Hertford, Martin, Northampton, Tyrrell and Washington Counties
P. Angelicia Simmons, Legislative Assistant
Office of Senator Erica Smith-Ingram
Room 1118, State Legislative Building
NC Senate – District 3
16 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
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