Published On: Thu, Jul 15th, 2010
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The Raleigh Report – July 15

From the Office of Representative Phil Haire
 
Members of the House supported four major priorities for our state and the people I represent. Those priorities were: getting North Carolinians and small businesses back to work; protecting our future by ensuring our children receive a quality education; making sure our state government lives within its means; and demanding a responsible government. 
The following information highlights the results of our work.
 
Priority # 1 – Jobs: getting North Carolinians and small businesses back to work
 
Our number one priority this session was to get North Carolinians back to work and support our small businesses, which is essential to help our in economic recovery. The General Assembly agreed to: recruit jobs into the state and protect the ones we have; build a workforce to fit the needs of the 21st Century; invest in existing job development funds for new and expanding businesses and assist small businesses in creating jobs. The budget (SB 897) includes the following appropriations.
 
_ $1 million – Small Business Assistance Fund
 
_ $1 million – Tourism Marketing Funds
 
_ $250,000 – Funds for Got to Be NC agricultural marketing campaign.
 
_ $1.5 million – Provides funding for the Main Street Solutions Program and the creation of one two-year time limited position to administer the program. This program provides grants to active Main Street Communities and designated micropolitans with populations between 10,000 and 50,000 people. Grants are to be used to support downtown economic development, historic preservation initiatives, and other public and private improvement projects that will support small businesses and job creation.
 
_ $12.5 million – Provides additional funding for the One NC Fund to enhance the competitive position of North Carolina when recruiting national and international business and industry projects. Three percent of these funds shall be used for small business expansion.
 
_ $1.5 million – One NC Small Business Fund
 
_ $750,000 – Provides funds for small business loans for those who have limited access to credit.
 
_ $150,000 – In-Source NC Network
 
_ $402,861 – Small Business Center Funding
 
_ $34 million – Small Business Tax Relief
 
_ $6 million – Appropriates funding for Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund.
 
_ Lower Sales Tax Compliance Burden on Small Retailers
 
_ Relieve Annual Report Compliance Burden on Small Business
 
_ Establish NC Mobility Fund to improve roads
 
_$875,000 – Provides funding to attract businesses to locate operations in North Carolina and to increase the sale of North Carolina exports, including agricultural commodities.
 
_ $1 million – Appropriates money for matching funds for US Department of Energy grants to support energy research and green jobs.
 
_ $5 million – Provides additional funding for the Biotechnology Center.
 
_ $5 million – Provides funds for the Biofuels Center.
 
_ $5 million – Provides funding to support the seven Regional Economic Development Commissions.
 
_ $1 million – Provides funding for the Rural Center to provide assistance to farmers via grants up to $20,000 in three areas: 1. Improving energy efficiency on the farm; 2. Developing new markets; 3. Developing new products.
 
_These bills also help support small business by offering targeted tax relief.
 
_HB 1829 – Renewable Energy Incentives
 
_HB 1249 – Homebuilder Property Tax Deferral Changes
 
Priority #2 – Protecting our future by ensuring our children receive a quality education
 
_This economic downturn won’t last. North Carolina must prepare for a strong recovery by continuing to invest in our education system. In this past session, protecting our teachers and continuing to protect class size were a top priority. The General Assembly also focused on keeping our students on track to graduate and supporting our community colleges and university system. In our budget we set aside:
 
_ Additional Education Lottery receipts to save the jobs of an estimated 1,600 classroom teachers
 
_ $10 million for the Student Diagnostic Intervention Initiative to help teachers determine student learning needs and ensure that students are adequately prepared for the next level of coursework.
 
_$2.5 million – Textbooks
 
_$122 million – Fully fund community college system enrollment growth
 
_$33 million – Equipment for community college system
 
_$8.2 million – Need-based financial aid for the UNC System
 
_$5.6 million – Fund Increased UNC System Enrollment Growth
 
_$24 million – Operating funds for new/renovated UNC System buildings
 
_There was also significant legislation passed to reform low-performing schools (SB 704); improve the graduation rate (HB 1877) and to identify and assist at-risk students earlier (HB 1875).
 
Priority #3 – Making sure state government lives within its means
 
_This year, the General Assembly eliminated $600 million in spending from our budget without raising taxes. We made the largest cuts in the State’s history in 2009 and like most families in North Carolina, it was necessary to continue cutting back this year. Members of the General Assembly streamlined, economized and prioritized government spending and continued to find ways to make government more efficient, while also funding essential services for our state’s most vulnerable people. Improvements for North Carolina’s tax and debt collection process were made.
 
_Some savings include reducing the size and responsibilities of the state’s air fleet, finding efficiencies in drug programs and cutting the legislature’s own operating budget by more than $2 million.
 
 
Priority #4 – Demanding a responsible government
 
_The General Assembly acted to ensure an open and transparent state government that acts responsibly and finds solutions. The budget allocates:
 
_$492,702 to implement the Good Government/Campaign Reform Act
 
_$818,272 to strengthen state purchase and contract laws
_$600,000 for a Medicaid fraud criminal investigation team
 
_The Government Ethics and Campaign Reform Act of 2010 (HB 961) creates stronger standards for elected officials and government workers. Among other things, the act: increases the penalty for illegal campaign donations; improves the state’s campaign finance database by making it easier to search; makes complete salary histories of government workers public; requires the government to pay plaintiffs’ legal fees in cases where they are found to have violated open records laws without a written basis; increases economic disclosure requirements for judicial officers, legislators, and public servants
 
_Other legislation (HB 1851) increases the authority of the Secretary of Administration to provide oversight of the review and award of contracts and enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of the contracts process by requiring more state agencies and institutions to comply with certain requirements regarding review and award of contracts. The legislation also requires the Attorney General to review certain contracts and prohibits the use of cost plus percentage of cost contracts.
 
_In response to a federal ruling that now allows corporations to spend money on political races, the House added new disclosure rules (HB 748) to assure that the companies report how much money they are spending on political activity and how it is being used. Other new laws updated the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control system to make sure it meets modern standards of ethics (HB 1717) and transparency and attempt to crack down on fraud and kickbacks in the Medicaid system (SB 675).
 
Notes
 
_CNBC has declared North Carolina as most improved among the top five states for doing business, elevating the state from 9th to 4th in its annual survey, “America’s Top States for Business.”
* * * * *
Rep. Haire and Legislative Assistant, Sara Jane Lennard,
Intern, Paige Roberson may be reached at
300 N. Salisbury St., Room 639, LOB
Raleigh, NC 27603, 919/715-3005, philliph@ncleg.net

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