The General Assembly returned to Raleigh on Wednesday for a special session to consider a bill vetoed by Gov. Easley.
The bill (H2167) would allow people to haul some boats without permits and to expand the times when the boats could be moved. In the end, both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted overwhelmingly to override the governor’s veto, clearing the way for the bill to become law. Gov. Easley is the first governor in state history to use the veto and he has vetoed nine bills while in office. This was the first time in state history the General Assembly has overridden a veto.
This week, I also wanted to share some information with you about how the General Assembly continues to work for the future of this state. I believe we can all agree that education is one of the surest long-term investments we can make for the people of North Carolina. There is clear and convincing evidence to show that on the whole better educated people earn more and give more back to their society. We need to make certain that everyone in this state who has the ability and interest in attending college can afford to do so and that once they are there they receive the best education we can give them.
Over the years, we have made substantial investments in the UNC system and the university’s appropriation this fiscal year is nearly $2.7 billion. I want to share a few of the ways over the past biennium we have tried to make college more accessible and more affordable while also improving the quality of our universities. We also gave the system $15 million to use toward campus safety improvements.
I welcome any of your thoughts and comments about my work for you. Please feel free to call or write if you have a concern.
Our university system continues to grow and as it does, schools need more money to pay the basic costs of this growth. This year, the General Assembly has agreed to set aside nearly $35 million to help the universities cover the costs of growth.
In addition to the EARN Scholars program, we increased access to our world-class universities by increasing financial aid in the UNC system by nearly $28 million and setting aside another $8.6 million for state scholarships and grants. We appropriated $1.75 million in tuition grants for half-time students
We enhanced our “529” college savings fund by allowing more people to contribute more money each year to the tax-free accounts.
We set aside $6 million to expand the Learn & Earn program and increased funding for the online component of the program by $12.5 million. Learn & Earn allows high school students to earn college credits while they are still in high school. High school students can even earn an associate’s degree online, from their high school, or at a local community college. The program is free and allows students to prepare for college or work with no more than an extra year of high school at no additional cost.
We gave university faculty and professional staff an 8 percent pay raise so that we can attract the best educators for our students.
The state budget includes $4.6 million in matching money to establish distinguished professorships on each of the state’s 16 constituent universities. The Spangler Foundation will provide the remainder of the money.
$3 million for a faculty recruiting and retention fund to attract and keep university professors.
Programs and Facilities
As our state and our university system continue to grow, we need more buildings and new programs to provide the level of service expected of one of the nation’s premier institutions. Below are some of the highlights of our expansion of the university system.
Elizabeth City State University
We appropriated $600,000 for the new Aviation program at Elizabeth City State University and provided $1.5 million for capital planning and site development for the proposed Aviation Complex. The facility will contribute to the UNC Tomorrow committee’s goal of economic transformation. The building will be no more than 75,000 square feet and will include additional lease space to house community college aviation programs. The General Assembly appropriated $500,000 to this project in FY 2006-07. The total project cost is $17.5 million.
Authorized the issuance of certificates of participation for the construction of a new School of Education building. The size of the facility will be no more than 45,000 square feet. The total cost of this project is $20 million. The General Assembly appropriated $2 million in FY2007-08. Total debt authorized is $18 million.
Medical Schools Expansion
$1.5 million for planning the expansion of the medical schools at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University. The proposed additional medical students will spend their third and fourth years in clinical rotations in Charlotte, Asheville, and selected cities in Eastern North Carolina.
Dental School Expansion
The General Assembly agreed to $94 million in spending to plan and operate a new dental school at ECU, which will have up to ten clinics serving patients in underserved areas of the state. ECU plans to heavily recruit students from rural areas and will encourage students to practice in those areas. The dental school is set to open by 2010 at the earliest.
North Carolina Research Campus
$22.5 million to pay lease costs, hire faculty and staff, and purchase equipment and supplies for UNC programs located at the North Carolina Research Campus at Kannapolis. The research center is a collaboration between private investors, business and the university system.
Nanoscience and Nanoengineering School
We appropriated $5 million for the Joint Graduate School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering Building at the Millennium Campus in Greensboro. The 95,000-square- foot facility will be jointly operated by North Carolina A&T State University and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. We also gave the school $3 million more for operations.
University of North Carolina – Charlotte
North Carolina is a leader among states in energy efficiency efforts. Over the past two sessions, the General Assembly committed $76.2 million to plan and build the Energy Production Infrastructure Center at UNC-Charlotte. Students at the center will learn how to make better and more efficient power plants.
I plan to attend the following meetings/events:
Please invite me to attend your county, city, community or civic, etc. meetings or events.
As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Please remember that you can visit the General Assembly’s Web site to look up bills, view lawmaker biographies and access other information. You can also listen to sessions and committee meetings by using the “audio” feature on the site.