Here are 15 key items in new state budget that you might not know

In addition to large pay raises for teachers and state employees, new bonuses for state workers and retirees, historic investments in education and infrastructure and additional support for veterans and military families, the new state budget, which is fully balanced, includes several other key provisions that will have a positive impact on the lives of hardworking North Carolinians.

$100 Million to Boost Teacher Pay Supplements in Rural Counties

Lawmakers included a new $100 million fund in the state budget to increase teacher pay supplements in low-wealth counties that are unable to match higher salaries in wealthier counties. The new fund will enable less affluent counties in rural areas to compete with urban counties that have a larger tax base to provide teachers with higher supplemental pay. For example, this recurring supplement will boost the average annual teacher supplement in Jones county from $2,500 to $6,750. For the average breakdown for each county, please click here.

$1.7 Billion for Water, Sewer and Stormwater Improvement Projects

Municipalities across the state will be receiving a piece of the budget’s $1.7 billion investment in water, sewer and stormwater improvement projects. This historic investment will provide much needed relief to many municipalities, particularly smaller communities who cannot afford these projects. This will allow them to invest and upgrade their aging systems, which will encourage economic development and population growth.

$500 Million for Small Business Recovery Grant Program

Countless small businesses have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor’s continued shutdown orders. In response, lawmakers included a new $500 million Business Recovery Grant Program, which will issue a one-time payment to eligible North Carolina businesses that experienced a significant economic loss due to COVID-19. To learn more about who qualifies and how to apply, please click here.

$1 Billion for Rural Broadband Internet Expansion

The state budget provides an unprecedented $1 billion investment to expand rural broadband internet access across North Carolina. Connection to reliable high-speed internet service is critical to attracting and retaining businesses, improving health care access and ensuring that children are not left behind in the digital age. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for expanding access to rural broadband, and this budget takes a huge step forward in closing the digital divide in North Carolina.

Over $280 Million to Deepen and Expand Wilmington Harbor

The state budget appropriates $283.8 million for the Wilmington Harbor Navigation Improvement Project, which is critical to modernizing the Port of Wilmington and ensuring it remains competitive and attractive for business. The funds will be used to deepen the Wilmington Navigational Harbor, allowing for larger container vessels to access the port. This will boost not only the local economy but help drive more business across the entire state.

Cuts Personal Income Tax Rate from 5.25% to 3.99%

With North Carolina in strong financial position and producing large revenue surpluses, the state budget cuts the personal income tax rate from 5.25% to 3.99% over the next five years while also increasing the zero-tax bracket to $25,500 for married filers. Reducing the income tax rate for hardworking North Carolinians means they get to keep more of their money. This monumental tax cut will result in an over 20% reduction for each individual taxpayer while also overall saving taxpayers $13 billion over the next five years.

Eliminates State Income Tax on Military Pensions

After so many years of dedication to our country, the state budget provides retired veterans a much-deserved tax break by eliminating the state income tax on military pensions. More than 100,000 retired military service members call North Carolina home. By eliminating this tax, North Carolina will be more competitive in attracting and recruiting these highly trained and qualified military retirees. This is yet another important step towards making North Carolina the most military friendly state in the nation.

Launches No Veteran Left Behind Project

The state budget launces a new statewide program called the No Veteran Left Behind project. In conjunction with North Carolina-based, The Independence Fund, the project will provide additional training for law enforcement to help improve interactions between first responders and veterans in crisis. This will help ensure a veterans’ mental health emergency is not criminalized, but rather the situation is deescalated, and the veteran is connected with help and support.

Helps Firefighters Diagnosed with Work-Related Cancers

The state budget includes $7.5 million for a new insurance program for firefighters diagnosed with work-related cancers. Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population. The budget will provide a much-needed layer of security for firefighters and give them some additional support should they face a cancer diagnosis due to their service.

Expands Access to Lottery Funds for Schools in Rural Counties

Originally lottery funds were designated to school districts based on student population, which left smaller counties at a disadvantage, now – thanks to the new state budget – each county will receive $300,000 this year and $500,000 next year for school repairs and renovations. This will be a tremendous help to smaller, low-income counties that often have a greater need but lack the resources compared to urban school districts.

Expands Successful N.C. Promise Program

The state budget adds Fayetteville State University to the N.C. Promise program, which guarantees $500 in-state tuition per semester. Since being implemented in 2016, all three participating schools – Elizabeth City State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Western Carolina University – have seen dramatic enrollment increases. This program has been a huge success in making college more affordable for North Carolina families.

Funds New Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University

The state budget provides $75 million for a new Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. This new medical facility is critical to advancing rural health care and medical education in eastern North Carolina. The Brody School of Medicine consistently ranks No. 1 in North Carolina — and in the top 10% nationally — for graduating physicians who practice in-state, practice primary care, and practice in medically underserved areas.

Nearly $1 Billion Investment in Disaster Relief and Flood Mitigation

The state budget includes a nearly $1 billion investment in disaster relief and flood mitigation for hard-hit areas of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Under the plan, $412 million of this amount for immediate use, and the remaining $380 million will be put in reserves to ensure the state can respond quickly to future natural disasters. This is the largest proactive, statewide package that North Carolina has ever made to address flooding. It will help put an end to the costly cycle of spending after disasters.

$10 million to Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog

The state budget allocated $10 million to expedite testing and clear the rape kit backlog at the State Crime Lab. This is not a new issue in North Carolina. Before his term as governor, Roy Cooper was the state’s attorney general for 16 years and was directly in charge of these tests as the supervisor of the State Crime Lab. Rape victims show incredible courage and strength when submitting themselves to a sexual assault evidence collection kit, and, as a state, it is imperative that we have a timely, informed, and accountable process for testing these crucial pieces of evidence.

Nearly $30 million to Combat Human Trafficking

In 2019, North Carolina was ranked 11th in the nation for human trafficking cases. This is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. The state budget provides nearly $30 million to combat human trafficking in North Carolina. A portion of these resources will go to nonprofit organizations that help victims with services such as case management, education, and employment assistance. Other funds will be designated to help victims of human trafficking recover and transition back into society.