Gov. McCrory says he will sign budget - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Gov. McCrory says he will sign budget

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RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday he would sign the budget headed his way from the General Assembly, saying the budget didn’t meet all his objectives but that he was satisfied with the overall deal.

“I will be proud to sign it,” McCrory said.

McCrory pointed to funding for education in the budget in particular, saying teachers in North Carolina would see a raise of roughly 7 percent. Teacher assistants will not be reduced.

“This is a victory for North Carolina, a victory for the people of North Carolina and it’s a victory for continued economic growth and it’s a victory for education,” McCrory said.

The budget does not include coal ash legislation, an issue that has riveted public attention since Duke Energy suffered a massive spill along the Dan River.

“It wasn’t until late last night that the coal ash bill ran into disagreement between the Senate and the House,” McCrory said, indicating that the executive branch wasn’t aware of the problem until the waning minutes.

He said he would sign Executive Order 62 and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources would begin assessments of the 14 coal ash ponds. DENR would also hire additional staff as necessary.

“These are the first steps toward the closure of the coal ash ponds,” McCrory said. “While this executive order moves us forward, it is not a substitute [for comprehensive legislation].

“We are not going stop. We are going to move forward with or without legislation.”

McCrory said the state needed to “close loopholes” by his predecessors, a subtle jab previous Democratic administrations.

McCrory also had special ire for the General Assembly failing to pass regulations on puppy mills, an issue that has been a key one for his wife, Ann.

"This is an embarrassment to North Carolina,” McCrory said. “And I guarantee the legislators are going to hear from me and my wife.”

McCrory said he did not feel the budget would be faced with shortfalls.

“We disagree with that,” he said. “I’ve had my budget team review this. There are parameters we are comfortable with.’’

He also expressed satisfaction that the budget funds energy exploration in North Carolina, which has been a priority for him.

McCrory said some of the issues he wanted, but did not get, included career pathways for teachers program and more funding for school textbooks.

The North Carolina House Friday tentatively passed a $21.25 billion state budget on Friday, and

The budget had previously been passed by the Senate early Friday morning after General Assembly leaders announced they had reached consensus on the budget earlier in the week.

Budget leaders say the deal gives the state’s teachers an average 7 percent raise. T

Most state employees will have a $1,000 salary increase as well as an additional five bonus vacation days, House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office said in a news release. Highway Patrol Troopers also get raises in the new budget.

The House said the new budget also includes $186 million in a Medicaid Contingency Reserve for Medicaid and does not cut Medicaid eligibility.

“Today, the General Assembly was able to fulfill an important promise made to North Carolina’s teachers by giving them a significant seven percent average pay increase,” said Tillis (R-Mecklenburg). “We are finally in a secure fiscal position to unfreeze and reform the salary schedule that started in previous administrations ensuring every teacher has more money in his or her pocket. This budget will also give much-deserved raises to state employees and State Troopers while preserving classroom funding across the state.”

The losers in the 2014-15 spending plan for the year that started a month ago include Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat looking ahead to challenging Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in two years. His agency is losing $33 million and nearly 450 full-time positions — about 40 percent of his agency — as lawmakers move the State Bureau of Investigation to an agency headed by a McCrory appointee. Critics in both major political parties said they were concerned the SBI could lose the independence needed for an agency that investigates public corruption and other crimes.

The plan uses $620 million in savings from the previous year. Lawmakers this year needed to cover the $282 million cost of higher salaries for public school teachers and tax collections that are hundreds of millions of dollars below expectations. Legislative staffers last week estimated the impact of income tax cuts approved last year will be $680 million this year, greater than the $475 million previously estimated.

Nearly $42 million more will be spent this year to reduce class sizes in kindergarten to 18 children per teacher and to 17 students per teacher in first grade, an increase of 760 positions. Teaching assistants, whose jobs were threatened, are preserved. Funding for the Teaching Fellows program, which gives college scholarships to students in exchange for working as educators, is eliminated.

Teachers now among the lowest paid nationally get raises ranging from 3 percent for the most senior educators to 18 percent for those in their fifth year. School administrators will receive about $800 more while office workers and other non-certified staff receive $500.

Critics like Ed Bermudez of Pittsboro and Susan Cummings of Cary said they were unimpressed by Republican lawmakers who they blame for cutting education funding last year and restoring some of it ahead of this year's elections.

"The raise is just a political ploy to make people think that they care, but teachers are still exiting and going to other states" where they can get better pay, Cummings said.

The budget restores $11.8 million cut last year to account for lower public school enrollment as about 2,500 students used a new voucher program to move to private or religious schools. Attorneys trying to block the voucher plan argued the cut was evidence that lawmakers were transferring public funds to private schools.

Weeks before the $10 million program launches this academic year, lawmakers also provided included $840,000 in the budget to expand it.

Other provisions:

· Set up an education endowment fund which can collect donations from corporations and people who want to increase teacher pay.

· Create a second choice in standard license plates. The slogan "First in Flight" has been on North Carolina plates for three decades. Vehicle owners could also choose one that says "First in Freedom," honoring the early demands of North Carolina leaders for American independence in 1775 and 1776.

· Set aside $186 million for Medicaid contingencies. The state spends $3.5 billion annually to treat 1.7 million Medicaid recipients, and the program has had almost annual cost overruns for years.

· Continued a version of the film industry incentive programs. “I’m accepting what was passed and I think it’s a good compromise,” McCrory said. “It’s still a good program."

· Ban individuals or state agencies from use of a drone to conduct surveillance without permission. There are exceptions for media covering news or public events. Police could use drones to respond to the high risk of a terrorist attack, to prevent "imminent danger" to life, or to search for mission persons.



"In spite of 11th hour negotiations Thursday night, the North Carolina House and Senate failed to come to agreement on their weak, incomplete coal ash management bills, putting the impetus back on Duke Energy and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to remove coal ash from unlined pits near waterways.

"The Senate proposed an inadequate bill back in June; the House significantly weakened that proposal; and ultimately, the conference committee found itself at a stalemate to address North Carolina’s coal ash problem."-

-- North Carolina Conservation Network


“Roughly three and a half years ago, Republicans assumed leadership of the General Assembly and immediately tackled a record $2.5 billion budget deficit brought on by Democrats’ wasteful spending and reckless fiscal policies. We focused our first two years on repairing the problems we inherited and then began a course correction this biennium to put our state on a path to prosperity. Because of the difficult decisions we’ve made, more than 200,000 new jobs have been created, our children are receiving a better education and their teachers will soon be the highest compensated in state history.”

-- Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.
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