Gov. Cooper has proposed additional funding that focuses on state employee salaries, securing and modernizing information technology (IT), and strengthening military and veteran affairs. Supporting good management practices in government is needed to ensure agencies carry out their missions effectively and efficiently for the benefit of all North Carolinians. In his first proposed budget released on Wednesday, the Governor aims to increase the General Government budget overall by 8.7 percent over the current 2017 fiscal year budget, or $38.6 million. Under this proposal General Government operations would make up 2 percent of the state’s entire general fund budget.
Here are four key points from the Governor’s proposed budget related to general government:
- All state employees would receive a raise and one-time bonus and those underpaid would be brought to minimum market rate. The Governor has made it a priority to reward state employees (not including teachers, who are receiving a different pay raise under the proposed education budget) with the “largest increase in almost a decade.” The Governor’s proposal provides $178 million to support an increase of 2 percent or $800 (whichever is greater), as well as a $500 one-time bonus ($79 million), for all state employees not on the teacher salary schedule. Furthermore, the Governor’s budget also includes $16 million to increase state agency employee salaries where employee pay is below the minimum of the market and for additional adjustments for salaries in the bottom quartile of market pay.
- The Governor aims to increase the supply of safe and affordable housing across the state. Governor Cooper’s proposed budget invests over $25 million over the next two years to reduce the shortage of decent, safe, and affordable housing for low and moderate-income citizens, including individuals with disabilities. The Workforce Housing Loan Program itself would receive $20 million in non-recurring funds to assist with the development of low-income housing units.
- Funding for Military and Veteran related affairs would see a much needed increase. The Governor’s proposal would increase the budget for the Department of Military and Veterans affairs by 36 percent — or $2.9 million — over the current 2017 fiscal year budget. The additional funding would assist in three key areas: 1) Provides additional positions to ensure veteran cemeteries are appropriately staffed; 2) Enhances data analytics and grant software to provide the state with the tools to analyze data supporting veterans and generate information regarding the impact of veterans and military presence in communities; and 3) Supports the Military Affairs Commission in its ongoing efforts to retain and enhance military bases in North Carolina.
- Securing and modernizing IT systems across government agencies remains a top priority. The Governor’s budget would provide over $1 million in recurring funds, and over $10 million in non-recurring funds, to various agencies to address much needed information technology (IT) needs. For example, the Governor’s budget proposal provides money for the budget office to improve the stability and security of the statewide budget (IBIS) system; the Secretary of State to establish a disaster recovery site to improve the agency’s security from cyber threats; the State Auditor to replace outdated servers and protect audit records; the State Treasurer for costs associated with the newly upgraded statewide banking system; the State Controller to cover contractual service agreement costs of the Cash Management (CMCS) and North Carolina Accounting System (NCAS) systems; and the development of an Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP) to replace the State’s financial system.
- The Governor’s budget attempts to improve contracting practices across the state, but funding in this area is not enough to fix this complex issue. Cooper’s budget proposal would improve contract monitoring and accountability in the state by adding four positions at the Department of Administration at a cost of $298,000. According to the Governor, this request would “consolidate State procurement oversight, training and compliance functions.” It is important to note that, in recent years, the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division has identified various concerns pertaining to contracting practices and oversight in the state. While additional personnel to focus in this area are needed, a more comprehensive approach and initiative would help the state.
For more news and analysis during the budget debate, follow the Budget & Tax Center on Twitter @ncbudgetandtax.