RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – There isn’t anything specifically in North Carolina’s $27.9 billion 2022 budget that offers relief for consumers for the fast-rising prices.
“Heading into this short session, North Carolinians told us the strain inflation was having on their family’s finances was one of their top concerns,” Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) said in a release. “Inflation is still wildly out of control, which is why it is imperative the state remains prudent in its spending decisions. These budget adjustments better prepare North Carolina for the economic turmoil that many expect to come.”
State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro), one of nine Democrats in the Senate to vote against the plan, took to social media immediately to say he thought the document fell short.
“The people of North Carolina are facing inflation at every turn, at the pump, the grocery store, and the pharmacy,” Garrett wrote on Twitter. “We have the ability to deliver meaningful relief to our families, but this budget misses the mark. That’s why I voted, NO.”
Garrett was the sponsor of a bill in the Senate to provide a $200 gas tax rebate for all registered drivers, but he said earlier this week that it was “killed in negotiations. No help for people facing inflation.”
But, as Berger noted, the budget was proactive on the issue of inflation, providing for $1 billion in a new Stabilization and Inflation Reserve and $250 million for a reserve to help cover inflation-caused cost overruns for capital projects.
Some other things Berger and others touted about the budget:
- $833 million for water and wastewater infrastructure projects, which brings that spending to $2.5 billion.
- An additional $1 billion in educational funding from the closing fiscal year, making the total $16.5 billion. This includes an increase in starting salary for entry-level teachers by $3,700.
- 2% of sales tax revenue – approximately $193.1 million – will go to the Highway Fund, increasing to 6% in 2024-25 and thereafter.
- Additional $15 million for the School Resource Officer Grant program for elementary and middle schools, an additional $32 million for School Safety Grants and $26 million more to provide one school resource officer for each high school.
- $15 million to help keep the ACC headquarters in North Carolina.
- $225 million to attract thousands more jobs with Phase 2 of Toyota’s battery manufacturing plant at the Greensboro-Randolph County Megasite.
In the Senate, though, Garrett’s seatmate, Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro), voted for the bill. So did Wiley Nickel (D-Wake), the Democratic nominee in the 13th Congressional District.
In the House, Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) and Amber Baker (D-Winston-Salem) were among the “no” votes, but Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro) and Ricky Hurtado (D-Alamance) voted in favor.
“The budget is a good short session update that lives within the resources we have available,” state Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem) said in an email: “There are many good components, including additional employee raises, school safety grants school capital funds, health care support to many needed services. Overall a good update. Many new initiatives for the long session [next year].”
But Garrett remains incensed because he doesn’t feel that the state didn’t help individuals cope. And he also doesn’t like that dollars were budgeted to help North Carolina ensure that the Atlantic Coast Conference keeps its headquarters in North Carolina, if not also in Greensboro.
“While North Carolinians are facing rising prices at the pump, the grocery store, and the pharmacy, our state is sitting in record surplus revenue,” he wrote in a text message to WGHP. “We have the ability to return some of the surplus to our people, helping ease the pain of inflation for North Carolina families, but the budget missed the mark.
“Furthermore, asking the taxpayers of North Carolina to flip the bill for the ACC’s move to the tune of $15M is grotesque and shameful.”
Clemmons and Hurtado did not respond immediately to requests for comment. Neither did Harrison, although she had said during the week that there were troubling parts of the plan.