RALEIGH — As legislators from both houses meet next week to hash out a state budget, one of Richmond County’s elected officials will be at the table.
Last week, Republican Sen. Tom McInnis was appointed as one of the budget conferees.
“I am highly honored by the appointment and look forward to representing the 25th District in the conference,” McInnis said in a statement.
McInnis is one of two freshman senators — along with Sen. John Alexander, R-Wake — to be appointed to the conference committee.
“One of my top priorities is enhancing educational opportunities,” said the former Richmond County school board member.
Last month, the Senate proposed a $21.5 million budget which included increasing the base pay of early-career teachers to $35,000 per year, as well as a raise for those who have been in the classroom for 5 to 24 years.
The Senate wants to spend more than $270 million over the next two years to create thousands of teaching jobs in grades K-3 to reduce the teacher-student ratio in kindergarten classes to 1:17 and 1:15 in grades 1 to 3.
However, the Senate’s plan also reduces funding that could be used by school districts to hire thousands of teaching assistants by $214 million, in addition to eliminating $113 million from state lottery profits.
McInnis said last month that he hopes those assistant positions will be preserved as the budget process progresses.
In a June 25 op-ed, Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, said the plan “may look good on paper,” but many school districts use the teacher assistant funds to actually hire teachers.
“The Senate proposal would result in a net loss of both teaching assistants and teachers, ultimately robbing our district of several hundred jobs,” he said.
Two topics McInnis expects to be the most discussed are the sales tax reallocation proposal and Medicaid modernization.
Smaller counties in the state are expected to benefit from the proposed restructuring of sales tax distributions and most counties would be allowed to raise their sales tax by a half-cent.
Gov. Pat McCrory has threatened to veto the tax bill, prompting a biting response from the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow.
“I can’t figure out if Pat thinks he is the Governor of Charlotte or the Mayor of North Carolina,” Brown said in a statement earlier this week. “Sadly, the governor’s tone-deaf response to their overwhelming support is doubling down on a 2007 sales tax policy change that kicked rural North Carolina in the teeth.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.