Governor Cooper announced Executive Order 204, which eases restrictions on businesses and gatherings. The order has three general categories of occupancy restrictions: up to 100 percent capacity, 75 percent capacity, and 50 percent capacity. The state’s mask mandate is still in effect. The executive order outlines the following:
- Restrictions on late-night sale of alcohol for on-site consumption is lifted.
- Mass gathering limit, increased to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.
- Businesses can operate up to 100 percent occupancy with safety protocols in place including museums, aquariums, retail shops, and barbershops, salons, and personal care services.
- Businesses can operate up to 75 percent capacity indoors and 100 percent outdoors with safety protocols in place including restaurants, breweries and wineries, amusement parks, gyms, and pools.
The order became effective on March 26 and will expire at 5 p.m. on April 30.
Governor Cooper released his FY 2021-23 Recommended Budget to the Joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee. Governor Cooper’s $27.4 billion budget focuses on critical support in the areas of education, economic development, health care, and infrastructure. North Carolina is in a strong fiscal position as the state has nearly $5 billion in unreserved cash in the General Fund and the Governor’s budget draws on those unspent funds to help finance the following priorities over the biennium:
Education highlights: 10 percent pay increase for K-12 teachers; $15 minimum wage for non-certified school personnel; $78 million in early education and childhood development (pre-k); $80 million for hiring of nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
Infrastructure highlights: $4.7 billion General Obligation Bond that includes $2.5 billion for public schools; $783 million for UNC System; $500 million for Community College System; $430 million for Health and Safety projects across state government; $460 million for parks, zoos, museums, and historic sites. Of particular note, NC has a $14.6 billion debt capacity over the next 10 years and historically low interest rates. On the most recent bond sale, the state received a 1.48% interest rate, which is a very strong position.
Economic Development highlights: $45.4 million in economic investments, including allocations for the One NC Small Business Fund and the Carolina Small Business Fund. Additional priorities include marketing funds to promote NC as a business destination and fund to identify new markets for NC products.
Clean Energy, Air, and Water highlights: $100 million in clean energy technologies and a clean energy workforce; $10 million for clean energy economic development; $4.5 million in clean energy grants for homegrown start-ups and small businesses; $300 million for environmental stewardship; and $8 million for emerging compounds mitigation.
Finally, the Governor’s budget provides for savings, contingencies and emergencies by recommending $1.1 billion for the Savings Reserve Account, $374 million to Medicaid contingency and transformation reserves, $150 million to OPEB Liability, and $100 million for State Emergencies. The budget also provides $1.8 billion to cover mandatory items over biennium, which include education enrollment, Medicaid rebase, etc.
The Senate will now review the Governors proposed budget recommendations and begin negotiating their budget priorities. Once that process is complete (May) the House will begin their budget process and eventually all three proposals will be negotiated into a final state budget for consideration by the General Assembly and Governor.
We will keep you updated on the budget process as it unfolds in the weeks and months ahead. The state fiscal year will end on June 30.
To learn more about our GA priorities, track legislative bills, or to read our blog posts, you can visit our webpage or follow us on Twitter @RcgaJ, @tierra_rcga, or @raleighchamber.