N.C. Legislature building

The North Carolina State Legislative Building on West Jones Street in Raleigh.

The N.C. House and Senate on Tuesday dropped their compromise budget — that is, the mash-up of the spending plans approved earlier by both legislative chambers.

I wrote last week about what each budget plan might mean for UNC schools and community colleges; the blog post you're about to read will go in order of that earlier post. The new 2019 Appropriations Act is here. Here is the committee report with all the numbers that goes along with it.

The N&O covered some of the non-higher ed highlights here if you want some idea why Gov. Roy Cooper isn't in a rush to sign this thing. Long story short, the governor and the Republicans who run the legislature disagree two key points: the size of pay raises for teachers and state employees, and whether the federal Medicaid program should be expanded in North Carolina. The new state budget is supposed to be signed by Sunday, but it seems doubtful that lawmakers will make that deadline.

With that intro out of the way, let's look at higher ed spending in this latest budget proposal:

New construction: Projects at both UNCG and N.C. A&T made the cut. The compromise budget includes $84 million for major renovations to UNCG's Jackson Library and $18.5 million for renovations of Carver Hall, one of the Ag college buildings at N.C. A&T. (I missed the fact that the Carver Hall project had been included in the House budget; it had been part of a proposed $200 million bond package for UNC schools, but the compromise budget uses a pay-as-you-go plan favored by the Senate.) Winston-Salem State could get $15.1 million to renovate the now-vacant Hauser Building, formerly a student center.

Altogether, 11 UNC System schools could share almost $632 million for 16 projects. There's another $80 million for repairs to be split by all state universities.

The state's community colleges could split $400 million in construction money. GTCC's cut is $19.5 million; Forsyth Tech could get almost $14.6 million.

One project that didn't make the cut is the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem. The House budget proposed $42.2 million for renovations of the UNC School of the Arts theater. The Winston-Salem Journal writes about the snub here.

An Umstead Act exemption for N.C. A&T: The compromise budget will let N.C. A&T sell ice cream and other dairy products it makes at its Ag complex out on McConnell Road. A&T isn't yet making ice cream out there, so settle down, folks, and hunt down some Howling Cow to tide you over.

Expanded A&T doctoral programs: The compromise budget includes another $7.5 million annually to bolster A&T's doctoral programs. The money will let A&T hire more professors and award more scholarships to grad students.

New scholarships: The new NC Patriot Star Family Scholarship (for spouses and children of current and former Armed Forces members killed or badly wounded during their service) made the cut. So did a new scholarship for graduates of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics who matriculate to a UNC System school. The compromise budget also lowers the eligibility threshold for lottery-funded scholarships for financially needy students.

Not making the cut was a new two-year scholarship for smart high school students who matriculated to a community college.

Pay raises: The compromise budget will let the UNC Board of Governors divvy up $15.2 million in money for raises for staff employees. If the BOG goes the across-the-board route, raises would work out to roughly 1 percent.

The community college system would get $12.4 million for salary increases.

N.C. Teaching Fellows: The compromise budget would expand the forgivable loan program for prospective teachers to up to three more schools. Currently, only five N.C. colleges and universities can take part in the program.

Lab schools: The compromise budget sets a new deadline for opening lab schools. At least six would have to be open by the 2020-21 school year, and at least three more (for a total of nine) would have to be up and running by the following year. There are currently five schools, including one run by UNCG. The sixth is scheduled to open this fall in Charlotte.

A budget cut for UNC-Chapel Hill: A Senate plan to lower UNC-Chapel Hill's state appropriation and fill in the hole with research dollars seems to have vanished from the compromise budget.

Summer school: A House proposal to spend $35 million to reduce summer school tuition didn't make the compromise budget.

ECU's med school teaching hospital: The legislature backed carefully away from a Senate plan that would have cut $35 million in Medicaid reimbursements to Vidant Medical Center, the Greenville hospital used as a teaching site for East Carolina University's med school. Instead, as the N&O reported:

"The proposed budget would attempt to alleviate the squabble between the UNC System and Vidant Medical Center by providing an 'enticement' for Vidant giving some control back to UNC, said state Sen. Jim Perry, a Lenoir County Republican.

"The budget would restore Medicaid reimbursements to Vidant Medical Center and help fund a new East Carolina University medical school building. But to receive that money Vidant has to return the UNC Board of Governors’ ability to appoint members to the hospital board of trustees."

Multi-campus centers: The compromise budget includes almost $2.3 million for four multi-campus centers at N.C. community colleges. GTCC's Aviation Campus and Forsyth Tech's Transportation Technology Center are two of the four schools that would split this money.

One important caveat: Because Republicans no longer hold a veto-proof majority in the legislature, this budget plan could be subject to some serious negotiations with the governor's office. Except for pay raises, none of the higher ed provisions seem to be part of any political back-and-forth. That suggests that what you just read will become law whenever the governor and the Leg agree on a budget. But I learned long ago never to try to predict what politicians might do, and I'm not going to start now. Neither should you.

Have something to say about the blog post above? Email me at john.newsom@greensboro.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at @JohnNewsomNR.

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