The North Carolina Senate finished its substantive business Friday night, completing a productive 2015-2016 legislative biennium.
“I am proud that Senate Republicans remained laser-focused on cutting taxes on middle class families and small businesses, making college more affordable, dramatically increasing teacher pay and strengthening our state’s fiscal health and climate for job creation – the policies that have made North Carolina a national leader in these areas,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham.)
Among other actions, Senate Republicans:
- Adopted balanced, fiscally responsible state budgets that invest in core services, strengthen public education, save for the future and grow North Carolina’s economy.
- Implemented additional tax cuts and reforms, including cutting the personal income tax rate and making the first $17,500 a family earns exempt from income tax over the next two years – which reduced the tax burden on North Carolina families and small businesses by hundreds of millions of additional dollars. Since Republicans assumed leadership of the North Carolina Senate in 2011, they have passed over $3 billion in tax relief for North Carolina families and job creators.
- Improved the state’s climate for job growth by lowering corporate income tax rates, moving to calculate corporate income tax on the basis of a single sales factor and expanding tools to recruit new businesses, including large companies like automobile and aerospace manufacturers.
- Increased funding for public education by more than $1 billion and continued major education reforms to reduce class sizes and ensure students receive the tools they need to succeed.
- Kept their promise to raise teacher pay by increasing early-career teacher salaries from $33,000 to $35,000 per year and adopting a plan to boost average teacher salaries to nearly $55,000 within three years. The plan would set average teacher pay above $50,000 for the first time in state history and, when fully implemented, would mean average teacher salaries are up almost $10,000 – more than 20 percent – under Republican leadership since the 2013-14 school year
- Awarded more need-based opportunity scholarships to children from low-income and working families and took steps to add 20,000 children to the program over the next ten years.
- Acted to make college far more affordable and accessible to students across the state, strengthen and stabilize public universities with lower enrollment and stimulate regional economies.
- Reformed the state’s chronically troubled Medicaid program to save tax dollars, achieve greater budget sustainability and incentivize delivering high-quality care to keep North Carolinians healthy.
- Enacted a compromise plan to safely manage the cleanup of the state’s coal ash ponds while ensuring residents in surrounding areas have permanent access to clean water.
- Invested hundreds of millions of additional dollars for transportation, made possible in part by ending a $216 million transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund – ensuring that money is finally spent on building and maintaining safe roads and bridges. The additional investment will allow the state to build dozens of new highway projects, replace hundreds of structurally deficient bridges and resurface thousands of miles of roads.
- Cut and froze the gas tax to provide much-needed funding stability to ensure the state can continue to build and maintain safe roads, bridges and economic corridors.
- Put a $2 billion bond package to support critical infrastructure needs on the ballot, which voters ultimately passed to invest more in the state’s public universities, community colleges, National Guard installations and local water and sewer systems.
- Passed a bill giving voters a choice on whether to amend the North Carolina Constitution to keep income taxes low, protect the state’s 'rainy day' emergency fund, defend private property rights and preserve the right to hunt and fish.
- Implemented sweeping changes to the state’s burdensome regulatory environment that cut red tape that chokes off economic growth.
- Took steps to reduce electricity rates and spur job growth and economic development across North Carolina.
- Invested hundreds of millions of dollars in pay raises and bonuses for hardworking state employees and retirees, including experienced-based step increases and merit-based bonuses.
- Defended the first amendment rights and jobs of magistrates and registers of deeds’ employees whose participation in same-sex marriage ceremonies violates their core religious beliefs while ensuring everyone who is legally eligible to get married will have that opportunity.
- Protected the safety and privacy of North Carolina families by keeping grown men out of bathrooms, shower facilities and changing rooms with women and young girls in public buildings and public schools.
- Prohibited ‘sanctuary cities’ in North Carolina to ensure localities enforce federal laws against illegal immigration and created a deterrent for local governments that continue to ignore the law.
- Ensured able-bodied, childless adults who receive food stamps meet federal work requirements.
- Expanded insurance coverage and access to treatment for autistic children with a bill supported by North Carolina medical providers, parents, advocates and insurers.
- Helped prevent overdose deaths caused by heroin and some prescription narcotics, by making a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose more easily accessible at pharmacies statewide.