Every two years, the North Carolina General Assembly embarks on a critical task: crafting a budget that not only manages the state's finances but also shapes the future of North Carolina. The 2023 state budget includes significant changes and investments that will have a far-reaching impact on North Carolina's residents, businesses, and communities.
Topline Figures: Fiscal Responsibility
The 2023 North Carolina State Budget comes with a total budget of $29.8 billion for the fiscal year 2023-24, and it increases to $30.9 billion in fiscal year 2024-25. Additionally, it prioritizes fiscal responsibility by growing the Rainy Day fund balance by $125 million, bringing it to just under $5 billion. This fiscal prudence ensures that the state remains prepared for unforeseen challenges in the future.
Tax Cuts: Relief for Families and Businesses
One of the headline features of this budget is a substantial tax cut amounting to $1.2 billion for North Carolina families and businesses over the next two years. The budget accelerates the scheduled personal income tax cuts, dropping the rate to 4.5% in 2024 and potentially as low as 2.49% if specific revenue triggers are met. These tax cuts aim to stimulate economic growth and put more money in the pockets of North Carolinians.
Salaries: Investing in State Employees
The 2023 budget demonstrates a strong commitment to state employees, including teachers. Most state employees will receive a 7% pay raise over the biennium. Teachers, in particular, will see an average pay raise of 7%, bringing the average teacher salary to $60,671 by 2024-25. Starting teacher pay will increase by 11% to $41,000 in FY 2024-25. Moreover, the budget expands the Advanced Teaching Roles program, providing $10.9 million for salary supplements to teachers in advanced roles.
Infrastructure: Building for the Future
Investments in infrastructure are a cornerstone of the 2023 budget. It allocates $2 billion for over 200 local water and wastewater projects across the state, addressing crucial infrastructure needs. An additional $700 million is dedicated to highway maintenance programs, covering resurfacing, general maintenance, and bridge construction and preservation. The State Capital and Infrastructure Fund will receive $5 billion over the biennium, further ensuring that North Carolina's infrastructure remains robust and modern.
Education: Fostering Knowledge and Opportunity
The budget appropriates $17.3 billion for education in FY 2023-24 and $17.9 billion in FY 2024-25, representing a significant increase. The Opportunity Scholarship Program is expanded to all students, with a focus on providing larger scholarships to those with the greatest financial needs. Savings from students enrolling in private schools after receiving an Opportunity Scholarship will be reinvested in the public school system.
Health Care: Prioritizing Health and Well-being
The 2023 budget places a strong emphasis on healthcare. It budgets $1.6 billion in nonrecurring federal funds for Medicaid expansion, ensuring more North Carolinians have access to essential healthcare services. Additionally, it earmarks $319 million for the construction of a new UNC Children's Behavioral Health Hospital, addressing critical mental health needs in the state.
Modernization and Efficiency
The budget also includes several provisions aimed at modernization and efficiency. These include investments in election infrastructure, streamlining environmental permit processes, and addressing emerging environmental concerns like PFAS compounds in water supplies. It also establishes an independent Office of State Fire Marshal and allocates funds for innovation and economic development.
The 2023 North Carolina State Budget represents a significant step forward for the state, with its focus on fiscal responsibility, tax cuts, and investments in education, infrastructure, and healthcare. This budget will have a profound impact on the lives of North Carolinians, ensuring opportunity for all so that our state continues to prosper!