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The state’s leaders walking hand-in-hand for a little bit longer

When Gov. Roy Cooper announced last week that he wants the General Assembly to make a $750 million “down payment” into a Hurricane Florence Recovery Fund when they meet today in a special session, some wondered if Republican lawmakers would balk. 

But Hurricane Florence continues to be the storm that unites. A press release Saturday from both House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the legislature plans to allocate $794 million on Monday — $44 million more than Cooper asked for.

The press release says that the understanding of the needs on the ground — particularly in education — are “preliminary,” so this likely won’t be the end of the spending. Indeed, Cooper is actually asking that this initial payment be part of an overall $1.1 billion spending package to help the state in its recovery from Florence. 

While the spending amount allocated today won’t be a surprise, details are still pending. Cooper is asking the General Assembly for $74 million for education in the areas of public schools, community colleges, and the university system combined, though he only wants a down payment of $65 million today. Of that, $50 million will be administered through the state Department of Public Instruction for things such as capital and operations needs, and about $11 million would go to the NC Community College System. 

We do know that schools will be a priority for lawmakers. Senior House Appropriations Chair Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said so in the press release. 

“Immediate assistance to speed repairs to hard hit schools is a top priority in the relief package along with clean-up, road and local infrastructure repairs and fully funding the state’s match to access the maximum amount of federal assistance,” he said.

Not only are lawmakers cooperating with Cooper, they are mostly trusting his judgment on the needs of the state and its communities. 

“We understand this damage assessment is an early estimate, and we trust that the administration’s analysis is their best effort to deliver numbers as quickly as possible. This has been an exceptionally fast timeline to approve funding relief for storm victims,” Berger and Moore said in the press release. “We appreciate the governor’s ongoing recovery efforts and look forward to working together on the implementation of North Carolina’s fourth emergency response package since 2016.”

Last week I asked if the kumbaya moment could last, and at least for now it continues a little bit longer. It’s made it easier for everybody to agree when the bulk of the money for this recovery is coming from the rainy day fund and its record setting $2 billion. Let’s face it, if you’re saving money for a rainy day, then Florence fits the bill. She dropped more than 20 inches of rain in some places and hit more than 33 inches in Swansboro. This kind of disaster is why that money is there and to some lends credence to the GOP’s emphasis on fiscal thriftiness.

State Board of Community Colleges

The General Assembly isn’t the only action this week. The State Board of Community Colleges is holding its annual strategic planning meeting as well as its regular meeting at Davidson County Community College (DCCC) on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Check out the agenda here

In addition to committee meetings, a planning session, and the actual Board meeting, Davidson County Community College’s president will host an “issues” session related to DCCC. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.