On July 26, Rep. Mark Brody (Anson & Union County) joined colleagues in the North Carolina House of Representatives to put the finishing touches on an historic legislative long session. The first with Republicans controlling both chambers and the Governor’s mansion, the 2013 long session was instrumental in rolling back decades of big government policies that have stifled job creation in North Carolina. Addressing the budget, tax reform, and Second Amendment Rights were some top priorities.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a responsible budget that continues to put North Carolina’s fiscal house in order, controls runaway spending and puts North Carolina back on the path to economic prosperity. The budget plan invests in core services, fully funding state pensions and the state health insurance plan. Unexpected Medicaid costs prevented state employee pay raises, but money was set aside for potential salary adjustments next year, and state employees got five additional vacation days starting this year.
Despite media reports to the contrary, the 2013-2014 budget spends more money on education than has ever been spent in North Carolina. Total education spending increased by $400 million, including a 2.1-percent increase in K-12 funding. The education budget also features new funding for opportunity scholarships for low-income students, encourages teacher accountability and performance, and rewards high-performing teachers with bonuses.
Fulfilling a campaign pledge, Republican leaders came together to pass a tax reform package that included the largest tax cut in North Carolina history. This tax plan includes a tax cut for all North Carolinians, simplifying the three-tiered state income tax to a flat 5.8 percent rate in 2014 and 5.75 percent in 2015. The plan also reduces the corporate income tax to 6 percent in 2014, making North Carolina more attractive to job creators. In fact, this new tax plan moves North Carolina from the 44th best tax climate to the 17th.
The tax bill also increases the standard deduction for all taxpayers, raising it to $15,000 for couples filing jointly, $12,000 for heads of household, and $7,500 for single filers. It retains the child tax credit and increases it for families making less than $40,000. And it protects all Social Security income from state taxes, keeps all charitable contributions fully deductible, and offers a $20,000 combined maximum deduction for mortgage interest and property taxes
The Second Amendment
The Republican-led General Assembly also passed a comprehensive gun bill shoring up the rights of law-abiding gun owners while cracking down on gun criminals. The bill, HB 937, increases penalties for various crimes in which a firearm is used, displayed, or a gun’s use or display is threatened and expands the places where concealed carry permit holders can have a concealed handgun. The bill also streamlines the handgun permitting process while improving revocation and reporting requirements for individuals prohibited from carrying firearms. This bill has broad support from both the law enforcement community and Second Amendment advocates.