ANER budget doubles down on marketing, spreads a few modest investments around
The Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources (ANER) budget makes one thing clear: North Carolina has image problems. Scattered throughout this section of the budget are a variety of additional funds to support marketing, promotion, and public relations work. New funds are made available to market North Carolina’s agricultural products overseas, to boost the state’s image as a business destination, to promote tourism, and to recruit foreign companies to the Tar Heel State. All of these activities were already supported to some degree by state funds, so the new appropriations show that budget writers are concerned about North Carolina’s image across the U.S. and around the world.
Some important new investments are included, but the ANER budget leaves many of the fundamental economic and environmental challenges facing our state unaddressed. Some of the notable funding increases include additional support for rural downtown revitalization, water and wastewater infrastructure, and shellfish industry development. While there is merit to most of the areas where additional funding is allocated, the ANER budget lacks a cohesive vision for a prosperous future.
See below for a list of selected changes included in the ANER section of the budget:
Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Military Buffers: Appropriates $1 million in new non-recurring funds to the Ag Development and Farmland Preservation Trust fund to preserve lands near military bases. Total FY 2016-17 appropriation to this Trust Fund is $3.6 million.
- Tobacco Trust Fund: $1.1 million in new non-recurring funds appropriated from the General Fund to the Tobacco Trust Fund. Brings total FY 2016-17 funding to $4.1 million, of which $2.1 million is non-recurring.
- Healthy small food retailers: Provides $250,000 in one-time funds to make fresh agricultural products available in neighborhoods and communities where grocery options are limited.
- International marketing of agriculture products: $500,000 in non-recurring funds to market NC agricultural goods overseas. Revised budget for the Marketing Division is $8.7 million.
- DuPont State Forest: $629,335 in increased funding to cover nine new positions at the DuPont State Forest.
- Eliminates vacant Safety Compliance Officer positions: Two positions that have been vacant for more than 2 years are eliminated. Because federal funds cover half of the costs of these positions, the move only saves $60K for the NC General Fund.
- Eliminates three Public Information Officer positions: Eliminates roughly one-third of the funding for Public Information Officers at the Department of Environmental Quality.
- Other position reductions: Eliminates one vacant Attorney position and one Environmental Senior Specialist position. Combined appropriation reduction of $235,810.
- NC State Energy Center: Appropriates $200,000 in non-recurring funds to the NC State Energy Center, bringing total FY 2016-17 appropriation to $600,000.
- Shellfish industry supports: Provides $1 million in non-recurring funds to support oyster sanctuaries, bringing total FY 2016-17 appropriation to $1.4 million. Funds two new positions in Marine Fisheries to support shellfish production and recycling. Increases funding for shellfish rehabilitation by $300,000 and funds a $100,000 pilot project for crab pot cleanup.
- Water infrastructure: Provides $18.8 in non-recurring funds to expand state water and wastewater infrastructure grants.
- In-situ water treatment: Provides $1.3 million to study in-situ water treatment.
- Closes Mercury Pollution Fund: Does not restore vehicle title fee transfers to the fund, transfers remaining cash balance in the fund to the Division of Waste Management, and slates the program for closure in June 2017.
- Water and Air Quality Account: Restores $7.3 million in transfers of motor fuels tax to the Water and Air Quality Account.
- Commercial Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund: Restores $16.2 million in transfers of motor fuels tax funds.
- Boating Safety Account: Restores $2 million in transfers of motor fuels tax funds.
- Marketing and promotion: Provides $1 million to establish the International Recruiting Coordination Office in the Department of Commerce to cover two positions and “entertainment, hosting, screening, and gift-procurement expenses.” Provides $3.75 million to market North Carolina as an economic development destination. Provides $1 million in additional funds to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina to market the state as a tourist destination.
- Rural Grants
- Main street revitalization: Provides $5.7 million in non-recurring appropriation for grants supporting downtown revitalization projects in rural North Carolina communities
- Broadband: Provides $500,000 for two broadband projects, located in Cumberland and Stokes counties.
- Johnston County Research and Training Zone: Provides $6 million for construction of public facilities and wastewater infrastructure to support selected industries locating in the Johnston County Research and Training Zone.
- Broughton Hospital: Provides $500,000 to continue economic development project that would re-use the Broughton Hospital facility.
- Apprenticeships: Increases funding for the NCWorks Apprenticeship Program by $500,000, bringing total FY 2016-17 appropriation to $1.4 million
- High Point Market Authority: Provides addition $600,000 in state appropriation to the High Point Market Authority to support marketing efforts.
Natural and Cultural Resources
- Clean Water Management Trust Fund: Increases funding by $8.6 million, bringing total FY 2016-17 appropriation to $22.4 million
- Aquariums: Provides $2.8 million to establish a repair and renovation fund for the state aquariums and Jennette’s Pier.
- Winston-Salem Museum: Provides $1 million to be granted to Forsyth County to support consolidating the Children’s Museum and SciWorks into a single facility.
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