More than one-eighth of the 2019-20 state fiscal year is over, but the budget impasse continues in Raleigh without any visible progress. Meanwhile, a few pieces of legislation are moving, but legislative calendars are fairly sparse.
State & Legislative Issues
Today marks the beginning of the eighth week since Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the proposed budget and the state seems no closer to having a budget deal. Both sides continue to blame each other for a lack of willingness to negotiate a compromise. While the legislature remains in session, the costs to taxpayers can add up. Staff at the General Assembly estimate that each day the legislature remains in session costs taxpayers an additional $42,000. That additional expense comes mainly from additional personnel costs. Legislators receive a flat annual salary of a little less than $14,000, but legislators are also eligible for per diem payments (to offset lodging and food costs) of $104 per day each day (including weekends and other days with no activity) the legislature remains in session. In addition to the per diem payments, while the legislature is in session there is a greater need for support staff, more office supplies are used, and maintenance and electricity costs are higher when the legislative complex is operating at a higher capacity.
What the state budget standoff is costing NC taxpayers (Raleigh News & Observer)
Background Check Failures
How to address the nation’s gun violence problem tends to be a hot-button issue with many proposals garnering both fierce opposition and support. In an unusual occurrence in the gun debate, both sides are speaking out against gaps in North Carolina’s current system of background checks. Earlier this week, the State Bureau of Investigation noted that over 284,000 felony convictions (representing about 145,000 separate individuals) had never been reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NICS is used all over the country to determine whether an individual can purchase a firearm. The backlog was cleared a few months ago. Officials say it is impossible to know how many people may have been able to purchase a firearm illegally due to the information not being entered in a timely manner but noted that 78 people have been prevented from buying firearms in the last few months because of the newly-entered data.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is looking at laying off hundreds of workers to deal with a cash shortage at the agency. The workers would largely be temporary and contract workers. The cash shortage comes as a result of two major and unusual expenses. The state’s tab for weather-related highway repairs after Hurricanes Matthew and Florence has far exceeded the average annual amount budgeted for repairs. Last year the tab was $300 million, almost five times the annual average of $65 million for the decade preceding Hurricane Matthew. The Department is also looking at a potential $1 billion tab for settling claims related to the Map Act. The Map Act allowed the State to reserve land for planned highway construction. This prevented owners of the land from developing it and often made it difficult to sell. In several cases, decades passed without the state buying the property. The State Supreme Court ruled that this was an unconstitutional taking of property and ordered the Department to pay just compensation to the landowners.
NCDOT to lay off hundreds of workers, as storms, lawsuits sap its budget (Charlotte Observer)
Local Issues – Raleigh
Raleigh and Wake County leaders are looking at the allocation of funds generated by the occupancy and meals taxes. The taxes produce about $55 million per year. Local leaders are looking at the allocation of the funds as debt related on the original construction of PNC Arena has been repaid, freeing up a significant amount of money for reallocation. Leaders have already recommended $8 million per year (and possibly up to $9 million a year) for 25 years to fund upgrades at PNC Arena. That leaves up to $46.6 million annually to still be allocated. The most high-profile project competing for those funds is the proposed soccer stadium that would be located just inside the beltline a few minutes’ drive from downtown Raleigh. Other major projects competing for those funds include development of Raleigh’s Dix Park and projects at the North Carolina Museum of Art and Marbles Kids Museum.
Can Raleigh support a soccer stadium? Leaders want answers before handing out money. (Raleigh News & Observer)
Drawings reveal plans for major upgrades to PNC Arena (Triangle Business Journal)
- Paid parental leave for many state employees starts Sept. 1, but not for all of them (Charlotte Observer)
- State denies license for company that wants to house migrant children in NC (WRAL)
- NC State official resigns after anti-Republican tweets come to light (Charlotte Observer)
- Appeal denied, Polygamy Porter beer remains banned in North Carolina (WNCN)