RALEIGH — A copy of state budget conference report shows over $1 billion allocated to state capital and infrastructure spending in each of the next two years and a focus on rural infrastructure and children’s health.
The spending plan, which is expected to be voted on this week, includes dozens of projects, including construction of a new children’s hospital in the Triangle. The funding includes $3.6 million in 2023-24 and $72.3 million in 2024-25.
The plan also calls for a total authorization of $50 million for the Appalachian State University Hickory campus Phase 1 renovation with $4.1 million allocated in 2024-25.
Gaston College will see funds for capital improvements or equipment at a health science education and simulation center totaling $15 million in 2023-24 and $45 million in 2024-25.
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is authorized to spend $60 million for a new aviary exhibit building.
“The Randolph delegation requested funds for a new aviary area at the North Carolina Zoo, a much-needed upgrade from the outdated previous facility. The bird aviary is trendy among visitors to our North Carolina Zoo, so we are honored to have played a role in bringing the funds for this project,” state Rep. Brian Biggs told North State Journal in a statement when asked about the Zoo funding.
Also included in the general fund appropriation is $80 million for use in the Care for Women, Children, and Families Act, which passed earlier this year to update the state’s abortion laws.
As North State Journal reported earlier in September, NCInnovation would receive $250 million in each of the next two years as well.
The primary spending focus, as is typically the case, is education, with a total of $17.3 billion net appropriation of the nearly $30 billion total.
As the budget process has moved from summer to fall, the legislation is still likely to not be the final word.
Letters backed by all 20 Democrats in the state Senate and 40 of the 48 Democrats in the state House criticized a move to link casino legislation and Medicaid expansion. That move, which would take both items from needing to be part of the budget bill to be enacted, is also part of this week’s intrigue.
Part of the Senate letter read, “having lost significant support within their own caucuses and constituents for casinos, support it seems they never had, they are linking casinos to the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, gambling with their health and lives.”
House Democrats, in their letter, said, “Republican leadership — and the public — know we will not be bullied into blindly supporting this bill.”
Following caucus meetings on Tuesday, votes are expected – but far from guaranteed – later this week.
This is a developing story and will be updated.