Gov. McCrory to Unveil 2-Year Budget Proposal


RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCory has laid out his vision for North Carolina’s next two-year spending plan.

On Thursday, the governor released his two year, $21.5 billion budget saying the state is still having to make tough choices on his plan to spend its limited funds.

Gov. McCrory said he broke the different areas of the state budget out of their silos- and looked at state spending as a whole as he put his spending plan proposal together.

He said in the end, there are some areas where he increased spending, and others where he is looking for cuts.

“First we had to focus on efficiency and demand fiscal discipline and accountability. The budget is still extremely tight,” said McCrory.

Budget Highlights:

• No new taxes, although there are some fee increases

• Pay raises for new teachers to bring them to not less than $35,000

• New Medicaid risk reserve fund of $175 million

• New salary exemption fund, to be spent in areas that are needed, instead of across the board raises for state employees

“The new paradigm is directing our monies toward where we are having the highest attrition, where the greatest need is, based upon the market performance,” said McCrory.

Less than 24 hours prior to the budget’s release, the head of the state’s judicial branch made a plea for more funding, saying this branch of government has been do more with less for too long.

“We’ve allocated 16 million dollar to the courts system, which should address many of their cost concerns, many of their funding concerns,” said State budget director Lee Roberts.

Roberts said more money could go to court improvements if bond proposals are approved by lawmakers.

As always, education is the biggest area of the state spending plan which NC Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said could it could see room for improvement.

“We have many more needs other than those expressed in the budget. But this is in the right direction,” said Atkinson.

The next step is for the governor to send the proposal to lawmakers who will now begin working on their versions of a state spending plan proposal.

While state leaders have no actual deadline for completing the budget, traditionally it is completed by July 1, which is the state of the new fiscal year.



New Chief Justice Addresses Lawmakers, Stresses Importance of Funding Court System

nc_supreme_courtRALEIGH — It has been 14 years since a chief justice came before lawmakers to talk about the state’s judicial system. New Chief Mark Martin asked leaders to restart the tradition, and in his first address, told the legislative branch the court system has many needs, chief among them is funding.

“By way of illustration, one county’s annual budget for the public school system in fiscal year 2014-15 is nearly $1.5 billion. The entire justice system budget, for all 100 counties, is only $464 million,” said Justice Mark Martin.

Over the past six years, the operating budget for the court system has been reduced by over 40 percent which has in turn meant the workforce has been cut by 10 percent, or about 600 people.

Less workers, means less people to do the work, which creates backlogs.

“Many of you are business owners and understand that a business cannot bring itself out of the red through efficiencies and innovation alone, it needs investment if it is to succeed. The same is true for the judicial branch,” said Justice Martin.

This is not a new problem though. In the last 25 years, the judicial system has exceeded more than three percentage of the total state spending plan.

Lawmakers say they acknowledge the need for more funding in the courts and believe it is an issue that can be addressed this year.

“I think we can make some adjustments, whether it is substantial or not is going to be relative. You know the judicial branch has done very well taking the money and using it very wisely. And we identified some areas where we can shift some money in JPS and probably have it more appropriately spent to some real needs,” said Rep. Tim Moore, N.C. Speaker of the House.

And they say the fact Martin wanted to come address lawmakers, it shows he is willing to work them to help make improvements.

Martin says he will convene a multi-disciplinary commission to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of North Carolina’s justice system, and to make recommendations for how to strengthen our courts within the existing administrative framework.


Capital Tonight March 4: State of the Judiciary Address

nc_supreme_courtOn Capital Tonight: Chief Justice Mark Martin addressed the General Assembly about the state of North Carolina’s courts. Tom Murry of the Administrative Office of the Courts and Catharine Arrowood of the NC Bar Association discuss his address and the challenges the court system faces. Perry Woods and Brian Balfour preview the governor’s proposed budget in our Advocates segment. Watch the program here.

Opening Statements Delivered in Jonathan Broyhill Murder Trial

Jon Broyhill

Jon Broyhill

RALEIGH—The trial is underway for the man accused of stabbing a prominent political strategist to death in her home in April 2013.

Jonathan Broyhill is charged with first-degree murder for the death of Jamie Hahn. Opening statements were delivered by both sides Wednesday morning.

Broyhill worked for Hahn’s fundraising firm Sky Blue Strategies and managed campaign funding for congressman Brad Miller. Investigators say Broyhill was suspected of embezzling money from the business. Prosecutor  Doug Faucette  said Broyhill wrote himself 39 checks, and embezzled nearly $50,000.

“The defendant on April 22, 2013 relentlessly attacked Jamie with a 8 inch chefs knife when they met at her house to discuss some unresolved financial issues about a Sky Blue client,” said Faucette.

Caroline Elliot, Broyhill’s attorney, said that he had no motive to kill those who he loved.

“Something snapped. As I said in the beginning this case is a tragedy. It is a tragedy commuted by a sick person who was ready to end his own life, there was never any premeditation,” said Elliot.

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks. If convicted, Broyhill could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Gov. McCrory Offers Public Education Hints in Budget Proposal

mccroryCHARLOTTE–Gov. Pat McCrory says his two-year budget proposal for legislators would give North Carolina public school administrators more flexibility to offer raises to experienced teachers and to pay for textbooks or computers for classrooms.

Multiple media reports said McCrory on Monday offered some details on his spending plan, which is expected to come out later this week. He visited a Charlotte classroom and talked to reporters in Greensboro. He also was slated to travel to the East Carolina University medical school in Greenville.

As expected, the governor said he intended to follow through on raising the floor on schoolteacher salaries to $35,000, up from the current $33,000. Opening pay was $30,800 a year ago.

McCrory said he anticipated nearly $300 million in new funding for K-12 education.


Religious Objection to NC Gay Marriage Leads to Bill Debate

gay_marriageRALEIGH–The state House is quickly taking up Senate legislation giving North Carolina magistrates and other judicial workers the ability to refuse to carry out duties for same-sex marriages due to their religious objections.

A House judiciary committee scheduled debate Wednesday on the measure, which cleared the Senate last week. Senate leader Phil Berger filed the bill in response to a local magistrate quitting his job rather than presiding after federal judges struck down North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban in October.

The proposal would prevent a magistrate or assistant or deputy register of deeds from performing duties for all marriages for at least six months.

Opponents of the exemption say public officials can’t pick and choose which duties they’ll execute and consider it thinly-veiled discrimination.


Capital Tonight March. 3: Advanced Nurses Study

Capital_Tonight_logoOn Capital Tonight: A new study finds that a policy change in how advanced nurses are supervised could help alleviate a doctor shortage. We talk with experts from the NC Nursing Association. Our Insiders Scott Falmlen and Chris Sinclair look at Gov. McCrory’s poll numbers in the latest PPP’s numbers and the politics of the gas tax. Watch the program here.

Chief Justice Gives First Speech to NC Legislature Since 2001

courtRALEIGH—The new chief justice of the state Supreme Court is giving lawmakers his evaluation of North Carolina’s judicial system in a formal speech.

The legislature invited Mark Martin to give a “State of the Judiciary” address Wednesday afternoon. This marks the first time since 2001 a chief justice has made such a speech to a joint House-Senate session since I. Beverly Lake Jr. did so in 2001.

Court spending is likely to be on Martin’s mind. He’s made restoring funds cut by the General Assembly since the Great Recession a top priority.

Martin has served on the court since 1999. Gov. Pat McCrory appointed him chief justice following the retirement of Sarah Parker last August. He was elected to a full eight-year term in November.


Capital Tonight Feb. 23: Impact of Gas Tax Debate

Capital_Tonight_logoOn Capital Tonight: The gas tax battle could reignite this week and well get perspective on how other states are handling the challenge. Also, our Reporter Roundtable looks at economic incentives. Watch the program here.

NC Senate Approves Magistrate Opt-Out Bill

gay_marriageRALEIGH–Some North Carolina court officials could opt out of marriage duties, including same-sex marriages, under legislation given the state Senate’s approval.

The Senate voted 32-16 Wednesday for a bill giving magistrates and some register of deeds workers the ability to remove themselves from the process because of religious objections. The bill comes after federal judges’ in October overturned North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban.

The measure prompted two hours of passionate words in the continuing gay marriage debate. Supporter Buck Newton of Wilson said religious freedom is constitutionally protected and must be upheld for workers even as the state complies with court rulings.

But Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh said government employees cannot selectively choose which members of the public they serve.