State lawmakers closed out the 2016-17 short session late Friday night, after passing and sending Gov. Pat McCrory a budget and a couple of other bills important to agriculture.
The $22.3 billion budget, HB 1030, the 2016 Appropriations Act, passed the Senate Wednesday and the House Friday, and includes many notable taxation and spending provisions. Regarding taxes, the budget expands the sales tax base to additional repair services, including those performed on real property. However, the budget also makes an important clarification— farmers who are exempt from paying sales taxes do not have to pay taxes on the new repair, maintenance and installation services included in this budget. This provision was a victory for North Carolina Farm Bureau. Furthermore, the budget increases the standard deduction over the next two years. For married couples filing jointly, the standard deduction would increase from $15,500 now to $17,500 in 2019.
The budget also provides $126.5 million for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, an increase of $10 million over last year. The WNC Ag Center and WNC Farmers Market will get a total of $6 million for renovations and repairs. $3 million in the budget will go toward improvements at the DuPont State Forest, and another $3 million in non-recurring funds will pay for new firefighting equipment for the N.C. Forest Service. $1.12 million in non-recurring funds will go to the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, and $1 million non-recurring will go to the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund for military buffers. AgWrap and international marketing efforts will each get $500,000 non-recurring next year. The Agriculture Institute at N.C. State will get $200,000 and the Southeastern NC Agricultural Events Center will get $165,000 for horse stables. All dollar figures indicate increases over the base budget.
Also last week, lawmakers sent Gov. McCrory SB 770, the NC Farm Act of 2016, after the Senate unanimously passed the bill Friday. Before final approval, the House removed provisions on capacity use areas and revised the agricultural exemption to the state’s sedimentation pollution act.
Another bill NCFB has tracked closely also passed in the last days of the session. On Thursday, lawmakers gave final approval to HB 992, Amend Industrial Hemp Program, which modified the industrial hemp law enacted by the legislature last year.
The budget, Farm Act and industrial hemp bills were three major pieces of legislation for which NCFB advocated, but several other bills the organization followed were not enacted before the end of the session. HB 763, the Military Operations Protection Act of 2016, would have regulated the construction of wind energy facilities and other tall structures in areas vital to military training. Three regulatory reform bills failed to advance, as did HB 3, Omnibus Constitutional Amendments. HB3, as introduced, would have revised eminent domain rules—an issue that will remain a top NCFB priority—but provisions addressing amendments on tax policy, government spending and the right to hunt and fish were later added before the bill stalled.
The 2017-18 biennium long session is scheduled to convene at 12 p.m., January 11.
For more information, contact the NCFB state office or learn more at the North Carolina General Assembly website, www.ncleg.net.