Governor Cooper’s first budget for Natural and Economic Resources makes a number of moves in the right direction, albeit mostly modest steps more than ambitious strides. After years of giving away big tax breaks to wealthy people and profitable corporations, there is no funding for truly bold initiatives. That said, several specific provisions in the Governor’s budget seek to fill some of the holes left by years of neglect and to extend some important economic development initiatives.
- Expanding broadband to under-served households. The Governor’s budget would set aside $20 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year for grants and planning to bring broadband connectivity to under-served communities. $14.5 million would create a grant program to support local governments, telephone cooperatives, and electrical cooperatives that are extending broadband connectivity to currently unserved communities. The remainder of the funds would support planning and implementation activities at the state level. This level of investment would come nowhere near addressing the lack of reliable and high-speed internet across much of North Carolina, but it could move us in the right direction.