The General Assembly’s final Natural and Economic Resources (NER) budget reflects legislators’ plan to spend the state out of the recession. This budget received a shocking 13.3 percent expansion over last year’s budgeted spending.
Most of the additional spending is “non-recurring” and has the stated aim of furthering economic development. The One North Carolina Fund, Main Street Solutions program, the Biotechnology Center, Regional Economic Development Commissions, and Homegrown Jobs programs are a sampling of state programs aimed at economic development, each of which receive expanded budgets this year.
In addition to the aforementioned expenditures the NER budget directly raids $6.7 million from special funds such as the Mercury Prevention Fund and the Wildlife Resources Commission to help balance the General Fund. The budget also diverts $4.4 million to the general fund that otherwise would be contributed to various special funds in the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.
Amazingly, the final NER budget spends more than either the House or Senate proposed. At $467.7 million, the final budget will exceed the House’s budget plan for NER – the higher of the two – by $15 million.
Significant expansions and reductions include:
- $12.5 million to the One North Carolina Fund
- $1.5 million to Main Street Solutions. This is one of the Governor’s new programs that provides grants to small business owners in downtown districts of small communities.
- $5 million to NC Biofuels Center
- $5 million to operating funds for the Biotechnology Center
- $3.1 million to Homegrown Jobs, as recommended in both the Governor’s and the Senate’s budget proposal. This provides additional funding for the Rural Center’s Building Reuse and Restoration program as well as funding for small-scale regional community development projects.
- $5 million to Regional Economic Development Commissions, this amount is equal to that called for in the Senate plan and roughly twice the expansion requested by Perdue.
- Operating costs and position eliminations in many departments
- $1.5 million from the sale of Forest Resources Aircraft
- $714,297 million from the operating budget of NC Aquariums
- $800,000 from transferring the Executive Aircraft Division within the Department of Commerce to the Aviation Division within the Department of Transportation. This transfer was approved in the Senate Budget as well.