Highlights of State Budget Proposal
As the third deadline extension for the passage of a state budget approaches, North Carolina legislative leaders have released the details of a $21.7 billion, 429-page budget proposal. The conference report on HB 97–2015 Appropriations Act, is scheduled for debate in the State Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then later this week in the State House. NC Family staff members have combed through the proposed budget bill and accompanying “money report” and have identified several items of interest:
- Lottery Expansion Jettisoned: A Senate proposal that would have expanded lottery advertising by 50 percent and would have directed the State Lottery Commission to initiate “E-Instant Games,” which are equivalent to online scratch-off tickets, has been removed in the conference report.
- Defunding Planned Parenthood: The conference report includes a provision that, “no State funds shall be allocated to renewing or extending existing contracts or entering into new contracts for the provision of family planning services, pregnancy prevention activities, or adolescent parenting programs with any provider that performs abortions.” This will help to ensure that state taxpayer dollars are not being used to fund Planned Parenthood.
- Funding Crisis Pregnancy Centers: The conference report continues $300,000 in funding for the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a “nonprofit, pro-life organization committed to equip, encourage, and network pregnancy care ministries in North Carolina.” The money report also provides $1.3 million in recurring funds for maternity homes across the state.
- Expanding School Choice: The money report increases funding for the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program to almost $18 million in 2015-16 and to almost $25 million in 2016-17. This program helps enable lower-income students to attend the non-public school of their choice. The proposal also expands funding for Special Education Scholarships for students with disabilities, while increasing the maximum amount of these scholarships from $3,000 to $4,000 per semester.
- Reducing Personal Income Taxes: The conference report increases the personal income tax standard deduction by $500 for married couples filing jointly; by $400 for head of household; and by $250 for single and married individuals filing separately in 2016. It also reduces the state’s individual income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.499% in 2017. A proposal in the Senate budget that would have capped itemized deductions at $20,000 was not included in the conference report.
Both chambers are expected to vote on the conference report for HB 97 and then send the budget proposal to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature by this Friday, September 18 when the third “continuing resolution” expires.