Cooper Signs Off on Budget Revisions
Before adjourning earlier this month for its summer break, the state legislature gave its bipartisan, veto-proof approval to revisions to the state budget for the current fiscal year — which began on July 1 and ends on June 30, 2023.
Governor Cooper gave his assent to the budget this afternoon, only the second time in five years he has done so.
Speaker Tim Moore rightly said, “This is a good budget that keeps North Carolina on the same path of conservative spending that has put us on good footing ahead of a possible recession.”
State budgets are two-year affairs, tracking with each biennium of the legislature. In the legislature’s “long session,” (the first year of the biennium), appropriations levels are set for the current and next fiscal year; in the legislature’s “short session,” (the second year of the biennium) the legislature has the opportunity to make any changes to the budget it sees fit. This biennium’s long session was the longest in state history.
This fiscal year’s $27.9 billion budget represents a 7.2% increase in spending from FY 2021-22. It increases the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $4.75 billion and, in anticipation of a recession, transfers $1 billion into a newly-created State Inflationary Reserve.
“Heading into this short session, North Carolinians told us the strain inflation was having on their family’s finances was one of their top concerns,” Senate Leader Phil Berger. “Inflation is still wildly out of control, which is why it is imperative the state remains prudent in its spending decisions. These budget adjustments better prepare North Carolina for the economic turmoil that many expect to come.”
The budget revisions also contain more generous pay raises for state employees, retirees, public school teachers, and non-certified public school staff (e.g. bus drivers and cafeteria staff). Most state employees will see a 3.5% bump in pay (for a 6% raise over the biennium) while teachers will get an additional 4.2% pay raise (bringing additional teacher compensation, including bonuses, up to an average of 14.2% over the biennium). Non-certified employees will receive an additional 4% in pay or $15 an hour, whichever is greater; retirees from state government will see an additional 1% one-time supplement, for a total of 5% over the biennium.
There is also an extra $55 million in recurring funds (for a total of $150.8 million) to North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Often referred to as school vouchers, these scholarships are income-based grants for children in kindergarten through the 12th grade that allow children from lower-income families to attend participating private schools that better suit their individual learning needs. Language in the budget legislation also expands the income eligibility requirements for the program (equal to or less than 200% of the amount required for free or reduced-price lunch) so that more families can send their children to a school of their choice.
The new budget numbers also include nearly $900 million for water and wastewater infrastructure projects (bringing the total amount to $2.5 billion over the biennium), $300 million to build a new Education Complex and Governor’s Office in downtown Raleigh, and transfers $950 million to the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Reserve.
“The General Assembly passed the 2022 budget with strong bipartisan support, and we are pleased Governor Cooper signed this responsible spending plan into law,” said Moore and Berger in a joint statement.