Gov. Pat McCrory released his budget proposal  for the next two years Wednesday morning, outlining a $20.6 billion spending plan to run the state that restores some cuts made two years ago by state legislators.
Teachers’ assistants in classrooms will take another significant hit, with funding only allotted for positions in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms and not the second and third grade classrooms that currently get funding. McCrory said the cuts and elimination of approximately 3,000 teachers’ assistants (hat tip to WRAL  for chasing down those numbers) would be balanced that by 1,800 new teaching positions.
“This is a very difficult choice,” McCrory said at a press conference he held Wednesday in the old Capitol building.
McCrory’s budget comes is slightly higher than the $20.2 billion budget the legislature approved in 2012, and includes a shoring up of the state’s Rainy Day fund, a move that McCrory said was critical to weather any financial uncertainly in the future.
The ultimate decider on the budget, of course, will be the state legislature, who will develop a budget of its own for the 2nd time since Republican took over the state legislature in 2011.
N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis released a statement this morning that said McCrory’s budget is a good start.
The budget process will be much different than the last time the legislature turned out a biennial budget in 2011 with McCrory, a fellow Republican, in the governors mansion. Former Gov. Bev Perdue had vetoed the budget approved by the legislature, but it was passed over her objections.
Two big uncertainties exist for the state budget—whether any tax reform adopted by the N.C. General Assembly will slash taxes, and potential revenues for the state, and what sequestration at the state level could mean for the billions in federal aid North Carolina receives each year.
Some of the highlights of McCrory’s budget include a 1 percent pay raise for all state employees (teachers included), and doesn’t include any new revenue (i.e. taxes, or major fees).
A recent tally of teacher’s salaries found that North Carolina is among the worst-paying states in the country, with pay ranking at 46th-lowest in the nation. A teacher with a bachelor’s has to work for 15 years before he or she will top $40,000 a year, according to a presentation  made earlier this month at the N.C. State Board of Education.
McCrory said this year’s budget just didn’t have room for any additional raises for teachers, over the 1 percent he hopes to give all state employees.
“I want to increase the pay for teachers right now,” McCrory said. He added, “I share their concerns, but I also have to work in the parameters within the available budget.”
June Atkinson, the elected state Superintendent of Schools, said in a statement that schools and education in the state are suffering from low teacher salaries.
“On teacher salaries alone, North Carolina’s competitive edge is gone and we are losing quality teachers every day because neighbor states offer better pay,” said Atkinson, a Democrat. “This puts us at a significant disadvantage as we work to prepare students for a successful life in a very competitive world.”
Here’s some of what was found in the governor’s 300-plus page budget:
(These lists are not inclusive by any means, and please feel free to let me know in comments what else is out there. Click here  to read the budget for yourself).
- 1,800 new teaching positions
- Adds 5,000 slots for low-income children in early education programs
- $5 million for the Indigent Defense Services  to pay private-practice attorneys for criminal legal proceedings
- Funding at the N.C. State Board of Elections for two positions with the election information system. The $390,000 over two years will let the state access more than $4 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds
- Three more positions ($320,000) for the understaffed Office of Charter Schools in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to oversee the rapidly-growing segment of public education
- $4,000 for Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to buy furniture (Forest’s office would also gain two new positions).
- Adds $3.4 million for drug treatment court funding next year
- Tuition increases for out-of-state students in the UNC system
And what it doesn’t have:
- Teacher’s assistants positions beyond first grade (though local school districts can shift around money to keep those assistants in classrooms)
- “Small or duplicative” programs in the UNC system would also be consolidated, to the tune of $1.9 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
- Shuts down five prisons in slate, in Wayne, Bladen, Duplin and Robseon counties as well as a youth prison in Western North Carolina.
- Reduced state aid to libraries, and shuts down four state historic sites (Aycock birthplace, Pol Memorial, Vance Birthplace and House in the Horseshoe)
- $10 million cut to the N.C. Rural Center, a non-profit economic development program that had strong ties to previous Democratic-run legislatures
- Reduction of $10 million to N.C. Biotechnology Center 
- Cuts advertising and marketing budgets for the N.C. Education Lottery
As mentioned above, the McCrory budget is lengthy, and subject to change.
Let us know in comments below what else we missed, and what we should be paying attention to.