Budget passing

Jim Swinkola of the High Country Charitable Foundation moderated a conversation with Warren Daniel and Dudley Greene in Avery County last July. Last week, Avery’s state governmental representatives and the NC General Assembly passed its first state budget in three years, providing funding for multiple areas in the High Country.

HIGH COUNTRY — The North Carolina state budget signed into law on Nov. 18 provides more than $75 million in funding for Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties, including money for a parking facility in Watauga, sidewalks in Lansing and county building renovations in Avery.

“This budget moves North Carolina forward in important ways,” Gov. Roy Cooper said when he signed the budget into law. “Funding for high speed internet, our universities and community colleges, clean air and drinking water and desperately needed pay increases for teachers and state employees are all critical for our state to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever. I will continue to fight for progress where this budget falls short but believe that, on balance, it is an important step in the right direction.”

It also includes a tax cut that reduces the personal income tax rate to 3.99 percent over six years and increases the zero-tax bracket to $25,500 for married filers and increases the child tax deduction by $500 per child and eliminates the state income tax on military pensions, according to Ballard.

“After months of productive negotiations with the Governor, I’m proud to see this budget pass and be signed into law,” State Sen. Deanna Ballard said in a press release. “As the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, it’s reassuring to see Democrats and Republicans come together to work on behalf of our students across North Carolina. I am also glad to know our High Country residents will keep more of their hard-earned money and see major infrastructure improvements funded in their community because of this budget.”

State Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Avery) stated he is also proud the budget passed.

“For the past decade, North Carolina Republicans have enacted smart, fiscally responsible budgets,” Daniel said in a press release. “Because of that, we’ve seen healthy budget surpluses year after year. This year’s budget builds on that by providing major tax relief to families and major infrastructure improvements, including $128 million for projects in our community.”

“Thank you NC Speaker Tim Moore and House Appropriations Chairs Donny Lambeth, Dean Arp, and Jason Saine for their leadership in this historic agreement for our state, and to my Senate counterparts Ralph Hise and Warren Daniel for their cooperation to secure funds for District 85 (Avery, Mitchell, and McDowell counties),” NC Rep. Dudley Greene stated following the signing of the budget on November 18 via social media.

NC Labor Commissioner and Avery County native Josh Dobson also released comment on the first budget passage in three years.

“I commend the North Carolina General Assembly for passing the biennial state budget earlier this week, and Governor Cooper for signing the budget into law shortly thereafter. House and Senate leadership, as well as the Governor’s Office, worked diligently over the past several months to come up with a plan that – while not perfect – will ultimately benefit North Carolinians,” Dobson said. “I am pleased that the budget provides five percent salary increases to state employees over the next two years and that most employees will receive additional one-time bonuses. Our state employees serve in critical functions across government, and this is the least we can do to show our appreciation. With respect to my department’s budget, the conference report included many of the items we requested, including funding for essential operations as well as two new Agricultural Safety and Health Compliance Officers. Our state’s agricultural industry relies on migrant farmworkers, and these new inspectors will help ensure those workers live in safe and healthy housing. I appreciate the General Assembly’s and the Governor’s receptiveness to our department’s priorities.”

For Avery County, the following funds are included in the budget:

  • $1.25 million for needed county building renovations in Avery County
  • $4 million on agriculture and environmental projects in the Avery state senate district
  • $98 million overall for building renovations in the Avery state senate district
  • Avery, Burke, and Caldwell counties are set to receive $1,458, $1,199, and $1,269, respectively, per teacher to supplement the counties’ portion of the teacher’s pay.

For Ashe and Watauga counties, the following funds are included in the budget:

  • $4.8 million for Town of Blowing Rock water and sewer
  • $1 million for Beech Mountain water and sewer
  • $700,000 for Seven Devils water and sewer
  • $500,000 for Rural Medicine Resource Initiative
  • $500,000 for Middle Fork Greenway
  • $362,500 for Watauga County capital improvements
  • $250,000 for Lansing playground and restrooms
  • $200,000 for Watauga County parking facility
  • $150,000 for Blue Ridge Conservancy Watauga River Paddle Trail
  • $100,000 for Watauga County Roof Repairs
  • $137,940 to Watauga County for a local health department grant
  • $100,000 for Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission Inc.
  • $362,500 to Ashe County for capital improvement
  • $2.5 million for the Ashe County Agriculture Center
  • $125,000 to the Ashe Memorial Hospital for educational training equipment
  • $54 million for ASU Innovation District Project
  • $25 million for ASU Peacock Hall
  • $43 million for various repair and renovation projects at ASU
  • $100,000 for Wards Mill Dam removal
  • $50,000 for Northern Peaks State trail
  • $45,000 for Lansing sidewalks
  • $40,000 for Lansing Creeper trail
  • $113,748 to Ashe County for a local health department grant

The budget also provides money for education across the state.

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