Final Budget Invests in Public Education, Provides Major Tax Relief

 

With bipartisan support, the General Assembly passed a final, $21.735 billion state budget this week that includes a responsible 3.1 percent spending increase, cuts taxes, invests hundreds of millions of additional dollars in public education and other core priorities and shores up our state’s rainy day and repair and renovation funds by $600 million.

 

I am grateful to members of the Senate and House for their hard work in reaching a final budget agreement that is fiscally smart, sustainable and saves for the future. This budget benefits all North Carolinians by providing families and small businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in tax relief, and by making a generous investment in public education, transportation and other core priorities.

 

The compromise plan contains a comprehensive tax reform package that reduces the tax burden on North Carolina families and small businesses by close to $400 million over the next two years.

 

It also increases funding for public education by more than $530 million in the first year alone and contains education reforms to reduce class sizes and ensure students receive the tools they need to succeed.

 

The budget boosts early-career teacher pay to from $33,000 to $35,000 per year and provides experienced-based step increases to teachers, assistant principals, principals, State Highway Patrol troopers, clerks and magistrates.  In addition, all public school teachers and state employees will receive a $750 bonus.

 

The agreement funds all teacher assistant positions supported in last year’s budget, with a safeguard that school systems actually use those funds for TAs so their jobs cannot be eliminated to pay for administrative positions and other spending.

 

It provides an additional $705 million over two years for transportation needs, made possible in part by ending a $216 million transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund – ensuring that money is finally spent on building and maintaining safe roads and bridges.

 

An investment of $225 million over two years allows the state to begin the process of restructuring and reforming North Carolina’s chronically troubled Medicaid program.

 

Finally, the budget includes new local tax revenue to support education and economic development in counties with insufficient local sales tax dollars.

 

Some other key provisions of the budget compromise include:

 

In Education  –

·        Fully funds enrollment and enrollment growth for K-12, community colleges and universities.

·        Reduces class size in first grade to a 1:16 teacher-student ratio in the second year – a step research has repeatedly shown is key to academic success.

·        Enhances textbook and digital learning resources funding to ensure that students across the state receive the tools they need to succeed.

·        Expands the Read to Achieve summer reading camps to first and second grades.

·        Continues major education reforms and requires local districts to implement a plan to improve student performance at schools that earn a school performance grade of D or F.

·        Increases support for the opportunity scholarship program by $14 million over two years to award more need-based scholarships to children from working families.

·        Provides for comprehensive data collection and study of driver education to improve the program and help ensure better student outcomes.

·        Allocates funding to the School Connectivity Initiative to bring better broadband and WiFi access to all North Carolina schools.

 

In Taxes and Economic Development

·        Cuts the personal income tax rate to 5.499 percent beginning in 2017.

·        Increases the zero percent tax bracket in 2016 – ensuring taxpayers married filing jointly pay no state personal income tax on their first $15,500 of income.

·        Fully restores the state tax deduction for medical expenses.

·        Encourages job creation and private investment in North Carolina by moving to calculate corporate income tax on the basis of a single sales factor over the next three years.

·        Extends Historic Preservation Tax Credits for four years.

·        Provides new local tax revenue to support education and economic development in counties with insufficient local sales tax dollars. The additional local revenue must be used to support public schools, community colleges or economic development in those counties.

·        Maintains the existing system for allocation of local sales tax revenue, where 75 percent is allocated based on the county where a sale takes place and 25 percent is based on population – ensuring no local government will lose revenue under the changes.

 

In Salaries and Benefits

·        Allocates $313 million in the first year alone for compensation increases to state employees, including a $750 bonus for all teachers and state workers.

·        Offers experienced-based step increases to teachers, assistant principals, principals, State Highway Patrol troopers, clerks and magistrates.

·        Sets aside funding for pay raises to community college employees.

·        Allocates funds for a 3 percent market-based salary increase for all sworn members of the State Highway Patrol and raises starting salaries from $35,000 to $36,050 per year.

·        Funds Gov. McCrory’s recommendation to invest more than $38 million over two years to boost salaries for correctional officers.

·        Funds Gov. McCrory’s plan to provide additional targeted, market-based pay raises to attract and retain highly effective workers.

 

Elsewhere

·        Provides $225 million over two years to begin the process of restructuring and reforming Medicaid.

·        Increases funding for essential court system needs – like interpreters, expert witnesses and juror fees – and operations at the Administrative Office of the Courts.

·        Lays the groundwork to give voters the opportunity to pass a $2 billion bond referendum to support improvements across state government.

·        Adjusts fees at the Division of Motor Vehicles for the first time in more than a decade to support additional transportation needs. The change in fees will be more than offset by the major tax cuts also found in the budget.

·        Adopts the Governor’s proposal to create the Department of Information Technology, which is expected to save $30 million over the biennium by reducing duplicative spending and increasing consolidation.

·        Implements the Governor’s recommendation to establish a more efficient state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and provides close to $1.7 million to support military installations.

·        Expands the budget of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to ensure county medical examiners are better trained and better paid, replace obsolete equipment and make regional autopsy centers sustainable.

·        Extends the foster care age to better support foster children as they transition to independence and provides funding for a new Foster Care Transitional Living Initiative Fund to improve outcomes for youth who are aging out of foster care.

·        Funds an unprecedented budget transparency initiative designed to give taxpayers and decision-makers the accountability they deserve by requiring state agencies and local governments to post their budgets and spending on an easily accessible, user-friendly website.

 

As always, please feel free to contact my office at any time with your concerns or questions.

Best regards,

Senator Ralph Hise

47th District

Governor McCrory                           

Takes Stand Against Sanctuary Cities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Raleigh, N.C. — Governor Pat McCrory says he is opposed to sanctuary cities and there is no place for them in North Carolina.

“I don’t believe in the concept of sanctuary cities because every law enforcement officer is sworn to uphold not only the constitutional law of North Carolina but also the laws of the United States, and that includes immigration laws,” said Governor McCrory.  “I don’t believe anyone should give sanctuary in any part of our state and nation where we are not enforcing the laws, especially toward people who continue to commit violent crimes.”

The governor expressed specific concern about criminal cartels that are now operating in North Carolina.

“Right now we have major cartels in our state and I am going to expose those cartels that are involved in drug trafficking and human trafficking,”added Governor McCrory.  “We cannot allow any sanctuary for drug traffickers, human traffickers or violent criminals in our state.”

 

The governor made the remarks this week at the 2015 Annual Training Conference of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association.

 

 

In Case You Missed It

ICYMI: Voter ID Lawsuits Backed By George Soros, Hillary Clinton

 

George Soros Bankrolls Democrats’ Fight in Voting Rights Cases
By Maggie Haberman
The New York Times | First Draft

A Democratic legal fight against restrictive voting laws enacted in recent years by Republican-controlled state governments is being largely paid for by a single liberal benefactor: the billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

Mr. Soros, the Hungarian-born investor whose first major involvement in American politics was a voter-mobilization drive in the 2004 presidential race, has yet to commit the many millions of dollars that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s allies hope he and other like-minded billionaires will pour into the “super PAC” directly aiding her campaign.

But it turns out that Mr. Soros has already agreed to put as much as $5 million into the litigation effort, which Democrats hope will erode restrictions on voter access that they say could otherwise prove decisive in a close election.

The lawsuits — which are being led by a lawyer whose clients include Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — are attacking a variety of measures, including voter-identification requirements that Democrats consider onerous, time restrictions imposed on early voting that they say could make it difficult to cast ballots the weekend before Election Day, and rules that could nullify ballots cast in the wrong precinct.

The lawyer, Marc Elias, who specializes in voter-protection issues, was in contact with Mr. Soros in January 2014 when Mr. Elias was exploring a series of federal lawsuits before that year’s midterm election and in advance of the 2016 campaign, according to Mr. Soros’s political adviser, Michael Vachon. (Mr. Elias declined to comment on Friday about the funding of the lawsuits.)

The goal is to try to influence voting rules in states where Republican governors and Republican-led legislatures have enacted election laws since 2010, and to be ready to intervene if additional measures are passed over the next 17 months.

Mr. Soros described himself as “proud” to be part of the legal battles. “We hope to see these unfair laws, which often disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, repealed,” he said.

Mr. Vachon said Mr. Elias first approached him early last year about supporting a voting rights lawsuit in North Carolina, where student identification cards are not considered acceptable forms of photo ID. The restrictions in North Carolina ended a program in which teenagers filled out a form and were then registered automatically to vote on their 18th birthday. Joining with the N.A.A.C.P., the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Elias argued that the law was onerous for younger voters in violation of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21.

The North Carolina case is still pending.

But Mr. Elias and Mr. Vachon have discussed filing other suits in some of the 21 states that have added voting restrictions since the 2010 Republican electoral wave, if those states seek to tighten voting access any further.

“I expect there will be more,” Mr. Vachon said.

 

 

NCGOP’s New Vice Chairman Responds to Moral Mondays

Raleigh, N.C. – Today, newly elected NCGOP Vice Chairman Michele Nix released the following statement in response to the latest Moral Monday publicity stunt at the General Assembly:

“Today’s planned publicity stunt at the General Assembly proves that Moral Mondays and its leaders are more interested in obstructionism and talking about anything other than the remarkable success of Republican policies that are turning North Carolina around.

“The fact is that their agenda is not pro-women. It is anti-North Carolina. The radical Moral Monday agenda backed by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Roy Cooper and bankrolled by out of state liberal billionaires and big labor union bosses would kill jobs in North Carolina and reverse the progress being made under Republican leadership. Now it seems that even some Democrats recognize that the Obama-Clinton-Cooper-Moral Monday agenda is too extreme and radical for North Carolina, and are splitting with the Democrat party to create their own ‘main street’ caucus.

“It is time for Roy Cooper, our chief law enforcement officer, to denounce the extreme Moral Monday agenda and the illegal tactics these activists use to obstruct progress and get arrested at the General Assembly.”

For interview requests, please contact Ricky Diaz at ricky.diaz@ncgop.org.

 

Background:

  • Cooper said he is “encouraged” by Moral Mondays (John Frank, “Cooper calls GOP teacher pay plan ‘a political Band-Aid’,” Raleigh News & Observer, 2/21/2014)
  • During a speech in Texas last week, Democrat presidential nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton endorsed North Carolina’s radical and pro-union Moral Mondays. (Craig Jarvis, “Moral Monday movement gets shoutout from Hillary Clinton,” Raleigh News & Observer, 6/5/15)
  • The Democrat Party passed a resolution officially endorsing Moral Monday and what they stand for: “THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the North Carolina Democratic Party adopts this resolution to support and promote the concept and principals of Moral Monday rallies and the progressive values these rallies stand for.” (North Carolina Democratic Party)
  • According to Civitas, the Moral Monday agenda would cost $10 billion in new government spending, or an approximate 50% increase in the state budget. That’s a $4,000 tax increase for each family of four.
    • “Estimates now reach an eye-popping $10 billion to pay for the “people’s agenda.” That would mark a whopping 50 percent increase in the state budget. To fund the “Moral Monday” demands would cost every man, woman in child in North Carolina roughly an additional $1,000. That amounts to adding another $4,000 in taxes to the tax bill of each family of four.” (“Moral Monday Price Tag Grows – Now at $10 Billion,” Civitas Institute, 6/10/2014)

 

NCGOP Elects Hasan Harnett as New Chairman

Raleigh, N.C. – Today, the delegates to the 2015 North Carolina Republican Party state convention elected Hasan Harnett as the next chairman of the state Republican party. Outgoing Chairman Claude Pope released the following statement after today’s vote:

“Congratulations to Hasan Harnett for his election as the new chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party. As a former campaign manager and outreach director, Hasan has the right experience to raise the funds necessary to grow our grassroots army and lead our party to even greater electoral victories. I want to thank all of the candidates who were nominated for this very important position, and I am confident that under Hasan’s leadership, the North Carolina Republican Party will continue forward with new energy and unity to defeat the Hillary Clinton-Roy Cooper machine in 2016.

“Thanks to the strength of our party and our grassroots supporters, North Carolina now has a Republican governor, two U.S. Senators, ten out of thirteen U.S. House seats and both chambers of the General Assembly.

“I want to thank the NCGOP staff and all of the supporters of the North Carolina Republican Party who have donated their time and money to make this all possible. But most of all, I want to thank the grassroots, who do the hard work on the ground to get out the vote for our Republican candidates at all levels. Serving as NCGOP chairman has been a great honor, but I look forward to returning to Bald Head Island to my wife, family and business.”

In Case You Missed It

Hillary Clinton Endorses Moral Monday

Moral Monday movement gets shoutout from Hillary Clinton
By Craig Jarvis
Raleigh News & Observer | Under the Dome

Hillary Clinton gave a shout-out to the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina during a voting rights speech in Texas on Thursday.

Speaking at Texas Southern University, a historically black college in Houston, the Democratic presidential candidate called for more activists to join the fray.

The New York Times reported this week that Marc Elias, a lawyer whose clients include Clinton’s campaign, has filed lawsuits in Ohio and Wisconsin challenging new election laws enacted. Elias brought a similar lawsuit in North Carolina in 2014. Other suits are planned, the Times reported.

Elias is the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign, and worked on the John Kerry and John Edwards 2004 campaign, and Al Franken’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2008.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article23223486.html

NCGOP Offers Free Rides To Get Voter IDs

Raleigh, N.C. – Today, the North Carolina Republican Party announced, in conjunction with its county and local party organizations across the state, it will offer free rides for anyone in need of a valid photo ID to vote.

NCGOP’s state wide network of volunteers will drive any North Carolinian in need of a valid photo ID to vote to the nearest DMV location to get a free photo ID free of charge. Anyone can request a free ride by going to ncgop.org/ride and filling out the form. A NCGOP volunteer in each region will contact each person directly to arrange a time for their free ride.

“The photo ID law passed by the Republican leaders is a common-sense measure to protect the integrity of our elections,” said Todd Poole, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. “You already need a photo ID to buy Sudafed, to board a plane and to drive a car. And now there is no excuse for people not to get a valid ID to be able vote. Our state-wide network of thousands of volunteers stands ready to help anyone of any political persuasion in need of a valid ID.”

Beginning in 2016, North Carolina law requires voters to show a photo identification (photo ID) when they present to vote in person. A person without a valid photo ID is able to get one free of charge from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.

Under the new law, the following forms of ID are valid to vote:

  • NC Driver’s License, Learner’s Permit, or Provisional License
  • Special Identification card (NC DMV ID Card)
  • US Passport
  • US Military Identification card (Including Active, Retired, Dependents, and Civilian)
  • US Veterans Identification card issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Tribal Enrollment card issued by a federally-recognized tribe
  • Tribal enrollment card issued by a NC-recognized tribe, signed by an elected tribal official, and compliant with G.S. § 163-166.13
  • Out-of-state-driver’s license or non-operator’s identification card (BUT only if the voter registers to vote in the county within 90 days of the election)

For more information about North Carolina’s voter ID law, please go tohttp://voterid.nc.gov/.

Governor McCrory Announces Testing Phase for

Online Driver License Renewal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        919-814-2100

Wednesday, June 10, 2015                                                                            govpress@nc.gov

 

Raleigh, N.C.— Governor Pat McCrory announced today that North Carolina has begun implementing a testing phase for on-line renewal of driver licenses. This new service will allow customers to save time and complete driver license renewals at their convenience without having to visit a driver license office. Allowing customers to renew online will also help reduce wait times in North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles offices throughout the state.

 

“This new service is a major milestone in our continued efforts to improve customer service online and in our DMV offices throughout the state, making it faster, easier and more convenient for people to complete their business and get back to their busy lives,” said Governor Pat McCrory.

 

“I am proud of the tremendous efforts and major impact our team has made to enhance customer focus since early 2013 including extending hours across the state, adding greeters to help triage needs, and incorporating new innovative technology,” said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. “Online renewal is another important step and just the beginning of more enhanced services to come for our customers.”

 

New Secure License

 

As part of this change DMV will be issuing a new more secure and durable type of license through online renewal and online duplicate request. The new design helps prevent counterfeiting, reduces the risk of identity theft, decreases the potential for fraud and meets federally recommended security features. The new license is expected to be available in NCDMV offices beginning this summer. See the new design here.

 

The online driver license process will be available to drivers every other time they renew their license, which is allowed up to six months before its expiration date. It is a process that should take just a few minutes, as a customer goes to the DMV online webpage, and uses the appropriate link under the Drivers section.

 

Drivers must verify their identity, confirm they live at the address on the license, and have no vision problems that would hinder their driving skills, and that all the statements being given are truthful. They also must have their current driver license number to complete the on-line form, and a VISA, MasterCard or Discover card to pay for the renewal. The new license will be mailed in 7-14 business days, and will be valid for 5 or 8 years, depending on the driver’s age.

 

Customers can’t use the online system to obtain their original license or ID card. It is also not available if a driver has a restriction other than corrective lenses on their license, is in the medical review program, is trying to renew a commercial driver license or a state ID card, or has an expired suspended or revoked license. Those customers must still complete those processes at a DMV license office.

 

When a driver receives the new license, it will be coated in Teslin®, a protective and waterproof synthetic material offering a more durable card that will not crack or fade. New security features include high-resolution graphics and laser-etched verbiage, as well as overlapping “ghost images” in various colors.

 

Front laminate highlights include images of the State seal, “NC” and “1775”, the year of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The license can also indicate active military or veteran designations, as well as organ donor status.

 

Creating Efficiencies and Improving Customer Service

 

North Carolina has piloted numerous changes during the past year to support Governor McCrory’s emphasis on improving customer service, efficiency and technology, and eliminating bureaucracy. The online renewal and more secure and durable license are examples of the continued DMV effort to meet the needs of its customers by improving their experience in local offices and online.

 

Among the DMV customer improvements added since 2013 are extended service hours in mornings, evenings and on Saturdays in key locations, adding front desk greeters, self-service kiosks and improved equipment, all with the goal of reducing wait times in some of our busier offices. DMV employees at license offices across the state have also completed additional training to improve their interaction with customers.