Legislators discuss five important items in state’s budget
By Josh Bergeron
SALISBURY — Cuts to income taxes and teacher raises were among the most touted parts of North Carolina’s recently passed budget, but there are also provisions that specifically affect Rowan County.
State lawmakers passed a budget one week ago that totals more than $22 billion. It received support from all of Rowan County’s representatives in the state legislature.
When asked about the budget, Rowan’s legislators started out by mentioning items such as teacher raises and pay increases for state employees. However, they’re just two of the changes passed as part of the state’s budget that may affect local residents.
Here are five items in the state’s budget that could affect Rowan residents:
• Pay raises and bonuses
State legislators passed a budget that boosts teacher pay to an average of $50,000 in North Carolina. That amount, however, factors in local supplements.
“The thing that takes center stage is always education,” said State Rep. Harry Warren, R-77. “This year’s teacher pay raises increase pay for everybody in every county and every locale. That’s something people should be, in a broad sense, glad to see.”
Under the recently passed budget, all state workers would also receive a 1.5 percent pay increase and a small bonus. Former state employees who have retired will see a one-time bonus that equals 1.6 percent.
When talking about the bonus for retirees, Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34, said a permanent increase would have been too expensive.
• Downtown redevelopment
The budget provides a total of $5 million for downtown revitalization projects in a number of municipalities, including Salisbury and Kannapolis.
State Rep. Carl Ford, R-76, said the money is intended to be used for general “economic-development-type projects.”
“To be honest, it was put in the budget so it would help almost everybody get something, especially those cities that were trying to move forward and do something that would provide jobs,” Ford said.
North Carolina’s budget specifically allocates $5 million to the Rural Economic Development Division of the Department of Commerce. The budget further states the money would be split among municipalities to provide grants totaling $94,340 to more than 50 cities.
Other cities on the list include Albemarle, Gastonia, Mocksville, Mooresville and Statesville.
• Budget boost for N.C. Transportation Museum
Brock, Ford and Warren said the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer will receive a $150,000 boost in its budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Brock called it a one-time appropriation. He said the transportation museum was “neglected for so long in Raleigh,” and the appropriation is aimed to help with the numerous renovation projects planned at the facility.
• Increase in standard deduction
Married couples who filed taxes jointly would see an increase in the standard tax deduction. The increase would go from $15,500 to $16,500 during the current tax year. Then, the amount would increase to $17,500 in the following year.
As a result, families could pay slightly less in taxes if they claim the standard deduction.
“It’s going to be a real, big important piece of the budget for tens of thousands of households,” said State Sen. Tom McInnis, R-25. “People will be able to keep more money for their families.”
• A tuition freeze at UNC System schools
McInnis was the only state legislator who represents Rowan who mentioned a freeze in tuition for undergraduates during their four years in the University of North Carolina System. He said the measure would “guarantee that in-state tuition stays the same for students during their time in college.”
McInnis said the freeze in tuition is aimed to reduce the amount of debt students would have to take on.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.
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