News: Quick Takes

NCGA roundup: Good fiscal news from legislative analysts

RALEIGH — The General Assembly’s top economist on Tuesday told legislative budget writers that the state had a “steady as we go” economy that is now faring better than most other states.

“We now have reached a point where we are now surpassing the average growth of the nation as a whole,” said Barry Boardman the legislature’s chief economist.

Boardman reaffirmed consensus budget numbers that came out last week showing that revenues will come in at about $22.7 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. That’s a $520.5 million increase over the last fiscal year, Boardman said.

The “problem” for lawmakers is deciding what to do with the surplus, fiscal analysts said, though enrollment growth in public schools, public universities, and community colleges will absorb some of that funding. They also noted that lawmakers have set in place efforts to increase the average K-12 teacher pay to $55,000 within a couple of years.

Lawmakers also don’t know how much more money will be needed for Hurricane Matthew relief, analysts said.

The consensus forecast was worked out between economic and budget analysts for the General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, he said.

For forecast in revenues is $23.2 billion for the 2017-18 fiscal year and $24.2 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year, Boardman said.

About 90 percent of all General Fund revenues come from individual income taxes, sales taxes, and corporate income taxes, Boardman said

“The economy is on much better footing,” Boardman said. Even so, he said not all economists anticipated robust growth.

On Wednesday, the House plans a floor vote on a bill that would beef up the state’s rainy day fund (House Bill 7). House and Senate committees are beginning to crank up also.

Meanwhile, lawmakers continued filing other bills.

One, filed by Rep. Jeff Elmore, R-Wilkes, would prevent the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction from submitting a state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act until the last possible date (House Bill 87).

Elmore said the ESSA is a rewrite of the former No Child Left Behind and could face a lot of changes under the Trump administration. “We need to see exactly what they’re doing before we submit a plan,” Elmore said.

Other filed bills include:

  • A bill modernizing the state’s Nursing Practice Act (H.B. 88), focusing on “advanced nurses” such as nurse practitioners. It was introduced by Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate (Senate Bill 73) by Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.
  • A bill allowing municipalities to transfer their housing authority duties to a regional council of government (H.B. 89), introduced by Rep. Jay Adams, R-Catawba.
  • A bill eliminating the N.C. final exam, which is used to evaluate teachers (H.B. 90), introduced by Elmore.
  • A bill establishing a Blue Ribbon Committee to study transportation infrastructure funding (H.B. 92), introduced by Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston.
  • A bill allowing emergency management personnel to use drones for emergency medical response purposes (H.B. 94), introduced by Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven.
  • A bill allowing oversized and overweight vehicles to travel after sunset when delivering cargo from the Global TransPark to the state ports (H.B. 95), introduced by Torbett.
  • A bill to adopt the Fayetteville Fried Chicken Festival as the official state fried chicken festival (H.B. 96), introduced by Rep. Elmer Floyd, D-Cumberland.
  • A bill requiring students to complete one credit in arts education anytime in grades six through 12 (H.B. 97), introduced by Elmore.
  • A bill making it a misdemeanor to vandalize or tamper with firefighting or emergency medical equipment (H.B. 98), introduced by Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.
  • A bill prohibiting the use of discriminatory profiling by law enforcement officers (H.B. 99), introduced by Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg.
  • A bill restoring partisan elections for district and superior court judges (H.B. 100), introduced by Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly.
  • A bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (H.B. 102), introduced by Rep. Carla Cunningham, D-Mecklenburg. Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, filed a similar bill in the Senate (S.B. 85).
  • A bill updating the state’s rabies laws to comply with guidelines specified by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (S.B. 74), introduced by Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon.
  • A bill making it a misdemeanor to violate the state’s public meetings and public records laws (S.B. 77), introduced by Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort.
  • A bill requiring remote retailers to collect North Carolina sales taxes if they cross certain thresholds in sales in the state (S.B. 81), introduced by Tucker.
  • A bill designating the month of May of each year as Lupus Awareness Monty (S.B. 83), introduced by Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford.
  • A bill repealing House Bill 2 (S.B. 84), introduced by Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake. It would also add a person’s marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military or veteran status, and genetic information to the list of protected status under the state’s anti-discrimination law.