Raleigh, NC-- When the clock strikes midnight Thursday, all or portions of more than 30 new laws take effect Friday.
LIST: See laws starting July 1, 2011
None will be more far-reaching than a state budget that cuts taxes but scales back or end scores of state-funded services, which could lead to thousands of public-sector job losses.
The two-year budget, written and approved by the Republican lawmakers who then overrode Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto, spends $19.7 billion for the year starting July 1.
The earliest change most people will see is a one-cent reduction on the sales tax for nearly all goods purchased. The tax rate will now be 6.75 percent in 82 of North Carolina's 100 counties. Seventeen more will be at 7 percent, while Mecklenburg County falls to 7.25 percent, according to the state Revenue Department. The tax on groceries won't change -- it remains 2 percent.
The sales tax will fall because the budget failed to extend temporary sales and income tax increases approved in 2009 by the Democratic-led Legislature. The decision means a loss of $1.3 billion to the state, but the average married couple with two children in North Carolina will save $107 a year, according to an analysis from the Legislature's fiscal staff.
"That basically will cut the cost of living by $1.3 billion," said House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake. "That will help immediately."
But less revenue meant Republicans cut deeper than Perdue's budget proposal suggested in several areas. The budget spends $230 million less than Perdue wanted on Medicaid and $117 million less in the University of North Carolina system.
In the public schools, the budget's largest line item, the Legislature essentially spent the same as Perdue wanted and preserved state funding for teachers and teacher assistants. But Perdue and state education leaders said reductions for assistant principals and guidance counselors and requiring local school districts to find an additional $124 million in cuts would result in more than 9,000 lost positions. UNC leaders and Perdue's office say the university system will lose 3,200 faculty and staff positions, a majority of which are currently filled. When combined with federal matching funds, the Medicaid reductions will lead to an extra 10,000 lost jobs in the state's medical sector through mid-2013, according to the liberal-leaning North Carolina Budget & Tax Center.
The GOP budget also pushed back on spending for environmental regulation and helping poor criminal defendants get representation and substance abuse treatment.
The budget "really does not support economic recovery, and it also undermines core state functions," said Brenna Burch, a policy analyst at the center. "A theme of this budget is making cuts in the short term that will have huge fiscal implications in coming years." Republicans said the size of public- and private-sector jobs cuts are overblown by critics in part because they don't take into account regular attrition in the work place, the impact tax cuts and breaks will have, and the availability of federal funds to temper job losses in the public schools.
Stam said provisions in the budget need time to take effect before people make judgments about whether the spending plan really harmed the most important state services.
"Tell us in September if you can tell the difference," Stam said.
Other laws taking effect Friday will:
- Remove the 100-school cap on charter schools and allow these non-traditional schools to raise enrollment by 20 percent annually, instead of the current 10 percent.
- Eliminate four standardized end-of-course tests in North Carolina high schools considered unnecessary by lawmakers and begins the process for high school juniors to take the ACT national college entrance exam to evaluate student performance.
- Eliminate dozens of state commissions or panels considered duplicative, outdated or unnecessary.
- Begin the process of requiring more people convicted of misdemeanors to serve active sentences in local county jails, rather than in state prisons.
LIST: See more laws starting July 1, 2011
For more information click on NC General Assembly.