The House released its budget proposal on Monday night with many items North Carolinians have been calling for in recent years. From fully funding opportunity scholarships to raising teacher and state employee salaries, the revenue surplus was put to use in a variety of ways.

Budget negotiations between the House and Senate have failed to make progress in recent weeks. Hoping to make progress, the House is moving forward with votes on the budget this week. The proposal pulls funds from the surplus and two reserve accounts while leaving close to $100 million in excess funds.

Senate leaders have indicated they are at an impasse due to what they deem as the House’s overspending and ‘ill-advised departure’ from conservative budgeting. Some of the fine-print details of the House’s budget include:

1. Ballet and theatre – The proposal would direct a $2 million grant to the Carolina Ballet and an additional $2 million grant to the NC Theatre.

2. Aquariums and zoos – The Fort Fisher Aquarium would receive $2 million for an energy efficiency system. A Piedmont aviary bird exhibit would receive an additional $2 million on top of last year’s $60 million allotment to a new aviary zoo.

3. State Fair– Appropriations for the state fair would go toward a flower show building costing $2.25 million and a lunch facility renovation costing $4 million.

4. UNC Science Investments – UNC-Chapel Hill would receive $17.5 million to create a new  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) building on campus. The university will get another $8 million to establish a College of Applied Science and Technology.  However, as the CEO of the John Locke Foundation Donald Bryson points out, there are many engineering programs already in place across the state. 

“There are world-class engineering programs 27 miles east and 52 miles west of Chapel Hill at NC State and North Carolina A&T,” said Donald Bryson,” Bryson said. “Additionally, there are programs at UNC Charlotte, East Carolina, Campbell, Duke, and other universities in our state. It’s difficult to see what scarcity this $8 million is solving.”

5. Shooting range – Almost $4 million would go to an expansion project at the Caswell Shooting Range. Located in Yanceyville and managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the outdoor range currently contains a 100-yard rifle range with 5 shooting stations, a roaming archery course with 10 separate 3D targets, and a 25-yard pistol range with 5 shooting stations.

6. Movie fund – The budget aims to increase the cap on the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund from $7 million per movie up to $20 million. The funds are intended to encourage the production of movies, tv shows, and commercials to develop the filmmaking industry within the state. 

7. ASU Campus – The budget provides $14.9 million in additional phase one funding to establish the Appalachian State University (ASU) Hickory Campus. The total project amount remains unchanged at the authorized $50 million. 

“It seems counterintuitive to add programs, buildings, and commitments in Hickory at the same time that UNC Asheville, one hour down the road, is losing students and cutting academic departments,” commented Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. “The UNC System should act more like a system and less like individual institutions competing against one another.”

8. Trails – An additional $1 million in funds would be given to nonprofits for grants that support state trails. The revised total amount available for trails grants in fiscal year 2024 to 2025 is $13.5 million. The funds will be transferred to the Great Trails State Program.