Saturday, May 05, 2007

Budget 5-04-07

The House rolled out much of its budget proposal Thursday that ensures that education will remain the state's top priority. The state's public schools, community colleges, and universities will get a total of $11 billion, about 55 percent of the roughly $20 billion plan. The proposal recommends: a 5 percent pay raise for teachers and a $250 bonus for first-year teachers; $7 million for a dropout prevention program championed by House Speaker Joe Hackney; $20 million more for a program for at-risk students; $3.2 million more for Gov. Easley's Learn & Earn program; and $6.4 million extra to expand Learn & Earn online. It also includes $2.85 million to hire 50 tutors to help with school literacy programs. Community colleges would get $25 million for a facilities and equipment grant program. Both community colleges and the university system would get all the money they requested for enrollment growth at their campuses. Need-based financial aid at the universities would increase by nearly $28 million under the plan. Budget writers also found $8.4 million to subsidize child care costs for an additional 2,000 children and $4 million to hire 80 more school nurses.

I am a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources, which covers the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Environment, and Labor. I am pleased to report that full funding ($100 million) is proposed for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. In addition, $8.5 million is intended for farmland preservation. There is $1 million proposed for the Natural Science Center in Greensboro, and some additional funding for promoting the High Point Furniture Market. There is also funding for seven additional inspectors for sediment and erosion control, North Carolina's number one water quality problem.

House leaders anticipate passage of their budget by the end of the week. The measure will then go to the Senate and lawmakers will work to approve a final version before the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, 2007.

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