Gov. Cooper today released the details of his recommended budget adjustments for FY 2018-19.
The spending total in his proposal comes to $24.54 billion, $500 million more than the $23.9 billion spending target recently agreed upon by the legislature.
Cooper’s plan would mark an increase of $1.51 billion over the current year budget, or about 6.6%. It would be the largest year-over-year percentage increase in ten years. Indeed, Cooper’s adjustments would add nearly $900 million in spending over the amount already approved for the second year of the biennial budget passed last year.
Cooper’s spending plan would mark an increase in the General Fund budget of nearly $4 billion in the last five years, good for a nearly 20% spike.
Some of the most interesting highlights include:
- Tax increases: the personal income tax rate is scheduled to fall to 5.25% in 2019. Cooper’s plan would eliminate that tax cut for households with income greater that $200,000. For those upper-incomes, the tax rate would remain 5.499%. Cooper’s plan would also halt the scheduled corporate tax rate reduction to 2.5%, instead freezing it at 3%. Combined, these tax hikes are estimated to cost taxpayers $110 million.
- Teacher pay: Cooper’s plan would create a new 30-step teacher pay schedule. It also promises “an average increase of over 8% for teachers and instructional support personnel, with no educator receiving less than a 5% salary increase in FY 2018-19.”
- School safety and mental health: spends $130 million on school safety measures, most of which would be dedicated to school infrastructure upgrades including building updates and communications to better security; along with new mental health personnel and training
- Pre-K expansion: Provides funding for an additional 2,000 slots for the Pre-K program; with a stated goal of increasing the percent of 4-year olds in pre-k from 22% to 55%
- Medicaid Expansion: Cooper’s plan calls for the expansion of Medicaid as provided for under Obamacare. His budget estimates this would add 670,000 more people onto the already overcrowded program. No mention in the budget is made about who these people will actually see when they get sick.
- Prison safety: spends $28 million to improve the safety and security of state prisons
- Corporate Welfare: Cooper’s plan would direct $10 million to a corporation specifically named, a manufacturing plant in Kingsboro
- Rainy Day Fund: would allocate $185 million into the state’s Rainy Day Fund
- Film incentives: Cooper’s proposal would largely replace the film incentive grant fund with a tax rebate program projected at $33 million per year. A smaller grant program capped at $2.5 million per year would remain for smaller production projects.