N.C. Unemployment Rate Drops Below National Average
According to data released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in July 2016, the lowest it’s been in nine years. This news indicates that the number of unemployed persons in North Carolina is 45 percent lower since 2013. Thus, the size of the labor force in our state is 2.9 percent larger than in January 2013. Additionally, due to an increase in employment, stronger economic activity and sound budget policy, the state is projecting a final revenue surplus of $425 million. As a part of simplifying the tax code for the first time since the 1930s, we instituted a tax “trigger” which relies on revenue estimates to give the stop or go sign on granting a cut. Thus, by our state collecting $21.3 billion in General Fund revenues during the 2015-16 FY, the business tax rate will drop to 3 percent in January 2017. Also, in January, the personal income tax rate will drop from 5.75 percent to 5.499 percent, which is down from 7.75 percent a few years ago. The tax reforms we passed are working – our state’s income growth has surpassed or equaled the U.S. average income growth for the past ten quarters – which that has not been achieved since 1996.
Students Back to School in North Carolina
As students and educators return to school, I’ll be continuing to schedule visits to several local public schools throughout the district to collaborate with our educators, students and parents. This year’s state budget increases education funding by $512 million - increasing average teacher pay, providing funding for textbooks - which has tripled since 2013. It lays the groundwork to connect every North Carolina classroom to Wi-Fi by 2018, and fulfills our commitment to lower class sizes in the early grades – a step research has repeatedly shown is key to academic success – by hiring close to 450 additional first grade teachers. I want our students in North Carolina to have the best education possible, and boosting teacher pay, increasing the number of classroom teachers and reducing class size will serve our students well.
At Elizabeth City State University with Governor Pat McCrory (center) discussing and getting feedback from Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Thomas Conway (right) of our efforts to make college more affordable and to also help attract new students to universities with lower enrollment.
Access to Affordable College Education
Higher education is an invaluable resource for dependable leadership within our communities, state and nation. Holding college tuition and fees down while fully funding our state’s institutes of higher learning will ensure the growth and contribution of our colleges for many years to come. The budget recently signed into law, lowers college tuition at Elizabeth City State University, UNC Pembroke and Western Carolina University to $500 per semester for in-state students. The budget also freezes undergraduate tuition at all UNC system schools for students who graduate in four years, or five years if enrolled in a five-year degree program. A final college affordability measure included in the budget caps university fee increases at 3 percent annually. The rapidly rising cost of college is a real burden on middle class families and recent college graduates. These investments will provide much needed certainty for families and students, allowing them to earn an affordable college degree while keeping debt levels low.
Connect NC BondBack in March, the Connect NC bond proposal was approved overwhelmingly by two-thirds of North Carolina voters. Elizabeth City State University stands to benefit from investments in the bond package. The bond will provide $13 million to renovate the Little Library and Moore Hall at Elizabeth City State University. The $2 billion Connect NC bond supports investments in our state’s education, parks, agriculture, National Guard and water and sewer infrastructure. Among the 50 State Senate Districts – my First Senatorial District ranked second in the amount of appropriations as well as the number of projects for state parks through the bond package.
Key highlights of the Connect NC bond for Eastern North Carolina include: