1. The House agrees on a budget that a lot of Democrats like.
The House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $22.2 billion budget on Wednesday, with just 12 Democrats, one of them being Democratic House leader Larry Hall, voting against. The plan would give teachers up to a 5% pay raise, which - surprise - still doesn't bring North Carolina to the national average.
Teachers would get a pay raise of up to 5 percent, and most other state employees would get a 2 percent raise under the House budget plan.
The budget also would increase the standard deduction for personal income taxes would increase by up to $2,000, gradually over a period of four years starting in 2017. That would bring the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly from $15,500 this year to $17,500 in 2020.
In addition to 2 percent raises, state employees would get a $500 one-time bonus that wouldn’t count toward their retirement. State retirees would get a 1.6 percent cost-of-living increase.
Teachers would get more than other state employees under the House plan. The teacher raise would average 4.1 percent and bring the average teacher salary to $50,000 over the next two years.
Teachers with less than five years of experience wouldn’t get a raise this year, and teachers with 25 years or more would get 2 percent – the smallest raises. Teachers in both those categories would instead receive a $1,000 bonus that would count toward their retirement.
The biggest teacher raises – 5 percent – would go to teachers with 10 to 14 years of experience. Teachers with five to nine years would get 4.1 percent, teachers with 15-19 years would get 3.4 percent, and teachers with 20-24 years would get 3.2 percent.
The final bill will be voted on tomorrow. Rep. George C. Graham got an amendment in there today that funds a child welfare grant for North Carolina tribes that also got overwhelming support; only four Republicans, including our boy Michael Speciale, voted against that one.
Other things in the budget: they voted to (at least temporarily) pull $8.7 million in funding for a new SBI plane, and they tabled an amendment introduced by Rep. Paul Luebke on taxes for expensive planes and boats. Leubke wanted to tax the full amount; current state law only taxes the first $50,000. Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Greensboro) called it "problematic," which is hilarious word choice. In the end, they killed it. Thank God, we wouldn't want millionaires to have to pay taxes.
The House votes on the full thing Thursday morning, and then it'll head to the Senate.
2. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan returns to his shitheel ways.
“This regulation hurts the very people it alleges to help. Who is hurt most? Students, non-profit employees, and people starting a new career. By mandating overtime pay at a much higher salary threshold, many small businesses and non-profits will simply be unable to afford skilled workers and be forced to eliminate salaried positions, complete with benefits, altogether. For the sake of his own political legacy, President Obama is rushing through regulations—like the overtime rule—that will cause people to lose their livelihoods. We are committed to fighting this rule and the many others that would be an absolute disaster for our economy.”
Ryan is referring to a new U.S. Department of Labor rule that will extend overtime pay to four million workers. What he means is that by keeping people working overtime for free, he's really helping them, logic be damned. Remember this the next time someone tells you he's a "serious" Republican.
3. Republican senator bravely takes on Big Wind and Solar.
Renewables advocates say it’s the most aggressive and sweeping attempt yet to undermine renewable energy in the state, building on momentum from last year’s elimination of a 35 percent state tax credit for renewable energy development.
“This bill is massive new regulation and essentially a ban on wind and solar in North Carolina,” said Brian O’Hara, who handles business strategy and government affairs for Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar, the state’s largest solar developer. “Under the permitting regime suggested by this bill, not a single solar farm developed in the state would have been built.”
Former Perdue administration official Robin Smith said that "the provisions in Senate Bill 843 treat renewable energy facilities as a serious threat to public safety and the environment." I thought these guys hated regulations and loved business?
The plane was flying at 37,000 feet when it lost contact overnight above the Mediterranean Sea, the airline tweeted. French President Francois Hollande said he had been told the flight crashed.
It's too early in the investigation to say for sure what caused the disaster, and at this point experts say anything from mechanical failure to the terrorism is a possibility.
5. Republican congressional debate tonight.
Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, Congressman George Holding, and Greg Brannon (whatever he does) will be facing off in a Second District Republican primary debate tonight at 7 PM. UNC-TV's North Carolina channel will host it.
This was all pretty somber, but cheer up: Moogfest starts tonight! Here's that Explosions in the Sky song that everyone's heard.