At a press conference earlier today, Governor Pat McCrory provided a narrow and preliminary look into his budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year that begins in July 2016. His remarks focused solely on the investments that he would make in the health and services (HHS) section of the budget. The Governor stated a desire to boost investments targeting vulnerable communities such as at-risk children, adults who suffer from mental health and substance abuse disorders, and older adults with Alzheimer’s.
Governor McCrory did not mention any additional rounds of tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations—a genuine concern given his willingness to sign into law such tax breaks in the last few budgets. He also did not mention any details for other investments that the state budget funds such as education, community economic development, and the justice system.
Without knowing all of the details of his likely $22+ billion budget and tax plan, it is unclear how he pays for the investments in his new proposal. He could pay for them with money expected to be left on the table this year, new revenues that are coming in due to a slowly improving economy here and across the nation, and/or by relying on a mix of new revenues and tax cuts. Several fiscal scenarios exist. As such, a complete analysis of today’s news must wait until the Governor releases the full proposal later this month.
Below are topline summaries of the Governor’s health and human services budget for the upcoming fiscal year. This is the part of the budget that targets supports and services to vulnerable communities, touching them at nearly every life stage and aiming to boost their longevity and survival.
- Provide $30 million to improve the lives of people with mental illness and substance use disorders, including investments in emergency housing, recovery and drug courts, and child facility-based crisis centers.
- Expand Medicaid and state services for older adults by adding 320 new slots to the Community Alternatives Program—which allows at-risk older adults to stay in their homes—and by providing a $1 million boost to family caregiver support services.
- Expand Medicaid services for people with developmental disabilities and Autism, allowing more people to receive the services they need.
- Provide $2 million to expand 400 Pre-k slots for at-risk 4-year olds. This will slightly reduce the 7,200+ waiting list but remains far short of the total slots available during peak levels in the 2009 fiscal year.
- Provide $8.6 million to strengthen the state’s child protection system, including training for the workforce and evidence-based programs that support families and children in their homes.
- Provide $750,000 for surveillance to identify and track the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary carrier of the Zika virus.
We may not have the Governor’s full budget proposal but what we do know is that tax cuts over the last couple of years have eroded the state’s ability to invest in supports and services for vulnerable communities. Revenues are growing as the economy recovers but there would be $2 billion more available absent the fully-phased in tax cuts, which are making it harder for vulnerable communities to receive the supports that they need to get by and be healthy.