ALBEMARLE — On Thursday, Nov. 18, a bipartisan state budget easily passed both chambers of the General Assembly and was then signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The two-year budget allocates $25.9 billion for 2021-22 and $27.0 billion 2022-23. Included in that is almost $32 million for Stanly County, funding a number of crucial areas.
“After months of good-faith negotiations with the Governor, I’m proud to see the compromise budget pass,” Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican who represents Stanly and Rowan counties in the state’s Senate, said in a press release.
Ford said that Republicans’ fiscal responsibility over the past decade has resulted in billions of dollars in surpluses, which has created the opportunity to be able to fund vital priorities while also maintaining money in reserves for future needs.
Funds secured for the county, according to Ford’s release, include, $125,000 for repairs and renovations at the Stanly Agri-Civic Center, $28 million for improvements at the Stanly County Airport, $1 million for marina improvements on Badin Lake, $800,000 for water and sewer improvements for the Town of Locust, $250,000 for improvements at the Badin Conference Center, $860,215 to Pfeiffer University, $144,750 for the Stanly County Health Department and $500,000 additional funds to the Stanly County government.
State Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) praised Ford for his work, saying, “Sen. Ford was instrumental in getting critical infrastructure and other projects approved for his district.”
Rep. Wayne Sasser, a Republican who represents Stanly County in the state House, was also instrumental in pushing for each of these projects.
Sasser, in an interview with SCJ a week earlier, noted that the area’s parks were one major winner, saying, “If you look at that budget, I think you’ll see really fast that not only Uwharrie, but also Morrow Mountain, that everything park wise, we just have got a great resource there for people to come, spend their money and go back home.”
On their social media, the Stanly County Republican Party praised the two for their efforts in this biennial budget, saying, “Senator Ford and Rep. Sasser have worked hard to bring more money to improve and grow Stanly County.”
In terms of state-wide impact, the budget will kick-off a decade-long $16.1 billion plan to rebuild North Carolina’s infrastructure, gradually reduce personal income taxes to 3.99%, grow the “zero-tax bracket” to $25,500 for those who are married-filing-jointly, increase the child tax deduction by $500 per child, maintain a $4.25 billion Rainy-Day Fund and provide $1 billion to expand broadband internet.
Public employees will also see increased wages in the new budget. Both teachers and state employees will see about 5% in pay increases. Non-certified staff, like the bus drivers and cafeteria workers that have been striking in Stanly and across the state, will see a minimum wage increase to $15 starting in 2022. Federal funds will be used to provide a $2,800 bonus to most teachers, as well.
Lower-wealth counties will get additional funds from the budget to retain and recruit teachers, with Stanly receiving over $1 million, amounting to a $1,375-increase per teacher.
Two additional provisions in the budget challenged executive-branch powers, and even though Cooper signed the bill, he signaled that he did not consider these particular items to be constitutional. The first would limit a governor’s power to declare a perpetual state of emergency without getting approval from the Council of State (which includes the lieutenant governor and other top state officials). Republicans included the measure after complaints that Cooper gave himself unprecedented, unchecked power during COVID by maintaining a state of emergency.
The other item prohibits what Republicans called collusive settlements. They cried foul a number of times when Democratic allies would sue the governor and then settle with him, allegedly as a strategy to change state laws without the legislature’s approval. The new budget would require the attorney general to include legislative leaders in any agreements of this kind.