Rowan’s state House, Senate lawmakers working to include funding for local projects in state budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 9, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As the state House makes tweaks to the Senate’s version of the 2021-23 state budget, Rowan County’s lawmakers in both chambers are working to secure a combined $30 million for the county.

Every two years, the House and Senate take turns proposing the state budget, with this year being the Senate’s turn. On June 24, senators passed a budget that allocates $25.7 billion from the general fund in 2021-22 and $26.6 billion for 2022-23. The budget was passed 32-18, with all but four Democrats voting against.

A new budget was not finalized in North Carolina for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years, with Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoing the legislature’s approved budget in 2020 due to the exclusion of Medicaid expansion by the Republican-led General Assembly. So, the state has primarily operated on the spending amounts outlined in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

As the Senate’s budget made its way to the House on June 24, Sen. Carl Ford told the Post he locked in nearly $33.6 million for District 33, which encompasses parts of Rowan and Stanly counties. Rowan’s share would amount to nearly $18 million.

In addition to Ford’s request for a $4.28 million allocation to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican representing Rowan County, has requested at least $8 million. That money is intended to help cover the costs of renovating the museum’s Power House facility, constructing a garage to prevent the historic rail cars from deteriorating in the natural elements and additional staff positions. The money will also help offset revenue lost over the last two fiscal years, which is estimated at $431,000, according to Michelle Walker, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

“The Transportation Museum is always a priority,” Warren said. “I have a strong belief it’s the economic driver for Spencer, East Spencer, Salisbury and the county in general.”

Rep. Julia Howard, a Republican representing parts of Rowan and Davie counties, told the Post funding for the Transportation Museum was on her list of requests as well along with funding for a water tower and some water and sewer repairs in Davie County. Howard said she was unable to provide the requested dollar amounts because she was not in her Raleigh office where that information was available.

Warren has requested $5 million to help fund a new Partners in Learning facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. The nonprofit child care organization has raised about $3 million from fundraising for the $8 million project. The new center will replace the nonprofit’s Catawba College location while expanding its classroom space and programs.

Additionally, Warren said he is currently working with the Senate to secure at least $2 million for the ApSeed program and its expansion into Forsyth, Hoke, New Hanover, Watauga and Yadkin counties. The program was founded by Salisbury native Greg Alcorn in 2016 and offers special tablet devices to children from birth to age 4.

East Spencer may receive up to $1.7 million to contribute to the ongoing mitigation of its water and sewer infrastructure, Warren said.

Additionally, Warren has requested $100,000 to fund the Missions of Mercy Dental Clinic program for the Community Care Clinic of Rowan. The MOM is a mobile outreach program of the N.C. Dental Society and provides free dental services to those in financial need. With the help of hundreds of volunteers and dental workers, past clinics in Salisbury have been led by longtime Salisbury dentist Dr. David Mayberry and Community Care Clinic of Rowan Executive Director Krista Woolly.

Warren said he’s also working to secure funding for the county’s volunteer fire departments. Ford told the Post in June he expects about $75,000 for Millers Ferry Fire Department, $100,000 for West Rowan Fire Department and at least $10,000 for each volunteer department.

To secure the funding, Warren said he’s asked for all the dollars using multiple sources of funding, like the supplemental federal American Rescue Plan, which puts less strain on the overall budget and makes the requests more feasible.

Rep. Wayne Sasser, a Republican who represents parts of Rowan, Cabarrus and Stanly counties, said he’s been working with Ford to secure funding for the Stanly County Airport. They’ve both requested around $28 million for a helicopter rescue training center, which will provide a centralized training center for first responders and National Guard members across the state. Sasser said the facility is expected to have a plane simulator and could attract people from all over the nation.

Additionally, Ford and Sasser are requesting $5.6 million for Stanly County Community College along with $12.64 million for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

As the only pharmacist in the legislature and chair of the House Health committee, Sasser’s other funding requests help opioid and substance abuse recovery facilities. He has requested about $1 million each for Charlotte-based Medassist of Mecklenburg, Will’s Place in Albemarle, Bridge to Recovery in Oakboro, Brunswick Christian Recovery Center in Ash and the Outer Banks Dare Challenge.

Sasser has also requested nearly $3.3 million for water infrastructure improvements in his district, including $1.5 million for Mount Pleasant, $1 million for Midland and $800,000 for Locust.

Though some of the entities Sasser has requested for aren’t within his district, including the Stanly County Airport, he said they all serve nearby counties and residents across the state. Such is the case for the opioid and substance abuse clinics, which service all North Carolinians, he said.

Sasser said he hopes to see the budget also include salary raises and cost-of-living adjustment raises for retirees, especially since billions of dollars are currently “sitting in the state’s checking account.” If the budget is vetoed by Cooper, a three-fifths majority in each chamber would be needed for a successful override. That amounts to 30 votes in the Senate and 72 votes in the House. Along party lines, that would require at least three Democrats in the House and two in the Senate to join all Republicans in the vote.

“I don’t think that money in the checking account is helping people from my district or the people of North Carolina,” he said.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.