Thank you Governor Easley! Does anyone else think this budget is awesome? Could it have happened if the GOP was in control? NO!
Let's not let the media push this to the back burner behind the Jim Black stuff.
# Increase North Carolina’s Commitment to Education – An additional $839 million for education above the 2006-07 levels, including salaries and benefits. The budget fully funds enrollment increases in the public schools, community colleges and universities. The budget expands More at Four with 10,000 additional slots.
# Continue High School Reform – $7.5 million to ensure operation of 55 Learn and Earn schools in 2007-08 to improve graduation rates, student performance and competitiveness; $12 million to expand broadband high-speed Internet access in schools and establish Learn and Earn Online to make 20,000 community college and university course offerings available to high school students statewide in 2007-08 and 40,000 in 2008-09; $7.3 million to improve and expand distance learning for community colleges; $4.2 million to improve distance learning for universities; $2 million to continue the high school turnaround initiative and assistance teams.
# Recruit and Retain the Best Teachers – A step and flat $1,240 to increase average teacher pay by 5 percent while making the state’s beginning teacher salary more competitive.
# Provide Resources to Low Wealth Schools – $18.9 million increase for the disadvantaged-student supplemental fund for smaller classrooms.
# Improve Literacy – Add 100 more literacy coaches in middle schools.
# Increase Access to Higher Education – $50 million (reaching $100 million in 2008-09) for EARN scholarship program so low and moderate income students can graduate from college debt free and $29 million for UNC Need-Based Grant Program to keep college affordable. Provide tax deductions for higher education tuition.
# Expand Economic Opportunity – Extend small businesses tax write off expenses; $15 million for the One North Carolina Fund to recruit new and expanding industries; $5 million for the One North Carolina Small Business Innovation Research Program; $3.5 million for the N.C. Biotechnology Center; $3.8 million to upgrade and streamline freight rail operations.
# Protect the Most Vulnerable – Eliminate state income tax for 545,000 taxpayers and cut the tax in half for another 629,000; $4.7 million to create N.C. Kids’ Care health care plan for 12,000 children of low-income working families to complement Medicaid and N.C. Health Choice for Children; provide subsidies for an additional 2,000 foster children of low-income working parents; $2 million to support National Guard members and their families through the National Guard Family Assistance Centers and for Operation Kids on Guard to help children of Guard members on deployment; $1 million for welfare and recreation grants to North Carolina military bases; $1.5 million through the Housing Trust Fund for a home protection pilot program to aid workers who have lost their homes due to the volatile economic climate; add two new migrant labor housing inspectors; $2 million for Dial-A-Ride and other public transportation systems.
# Strengthen Community Security – $13.6 million to expand prison capacity; provide school security officers for every middle school; $11.3 million for continued implementation of the VIPER communications system so local and state emergency responders can effectively communicate; $7 million for additional judges, prosecutors and court staff to move cases more efficiently; $3.7 million to update court technology; $3.6 million for equipment to enable the Highway Patrol to perform aerial rescue operations; $2.7 million to complete upgrades and expansion of the Statewide Automated Fingerprint Identification System; $840,000 to complete use of global positioning systems to monitor sex offenders; $500,000 additional for the Crime Victims Compensation Fund; $2.2 million to implement and comply with the federal REAL I.D. Act for secure drivers license and identification cards.
• Protect Our Natural Resources – $6 million for the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Fund; $5.5 million as a state match to federal drinking water funds; $2.6 million to match EPA clean water funds; $5.3 million to strengthen emergency preparedness efforts by continuing the identification, monitoring and mapping of natural hazards and man-made threats; $370,000 to enhance the ability of the state’s seven Hazardous Materials Regional Response Teams to save lives and property; $1.3 million to replace the end of federal support for the State Energy Office; $100 million in certificates of participation for land and water.
• Capital improvements for education, public safety, environmental and infrastructure projects – $487.3 million in general obligation bonds for University System projects including East Carolina’s School of Dentistry, Western Carolina’s Health and Gerontological Sciences Building, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Genomics Facility, and the NC State University Companion Animal Hospital; $310 million to increase prison capacity for projected growth; $37 million for five new Youth Development Centers; $100 million in special financing state conservation land acquisitions; $250 million in general obligation bonds for water and wastewater system improvements; and $35 million in general obligation bonds to be added to $20.5 million in gifts for a new Tryon Palace history education and visitors center.