RALEIGH Gov. Pat McCrory proposed a modest $20.6 billion state budget Wednesday that includes a 1 percent pay hike for state employees but limits spending growth to 2 percent.
The Republican governor emphasized spending on education and economic development, two campaign priorities in the plan, by including money to hire 1,800 additional classroom teachers and $2.7 million to craft a new branding strategy to lure companies to the state. Another 5,000 at risk 4-year-olds would be able to get into pre-kindergarten programs, at a cost of $9 million a year.
McCrory included no major high-priced spending initiatives, reflecting the states still tenuous economic picture and his campaign promises to limit government programs. On average, state agencies will see their budgets cut 1 percent to 3 percent from the current years $20.2 billion spending plan, leading to some jobs cuts and the elimination of longtime state interests. The budget year starts July 1.
Other line-items hit major themes McCrory highlighted in his campaign and recent State of the State address. His two-year budget, which calls for spending $20.6 billion per year, proposes:
• Giving state retirees a 1 percent cost of living adjustment for pensions
• Adding money to provide Saturday service at 30 Division of Motor Vehicles offices to improve service
• Eliminate the estate tax at a cost of $109 million over two years
• Close four historic sites across the state and eliminate 12 jobs
• Provide $10 million to compensate victims of the states defunct sterilization program, a small portion of what advocates say is needed
• Allocates $300 million to renovate and repair dilapidated state buildings
• Close six state prisons, including five in eastern North Carolina, citing a decline in the states prison population.
Putting aside another $600 million in reserves, McCrory said his plan is fiscally responsible and doesnt use one-time money to balance the budget.
The inch-thick, 300-plus page document starts the state budget process in earnest. State lawmakers, who began crafting their own budget plan weeks ago, will hear a presentation on the governors budget Thursday.
"His emphasis on paying off our debts and repairing our critical infrastructure reflects a vision and commitment to the long-term fiscal health of our state," Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican said in a prepared statement. "We look forward to reviewing the governors plan in greater detail, and feel confident we will share common ground on many important priorities."
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