On May 18, the NC Senate passed their version of H259, the Appropriations Act for 2023-2025. The Senate version of the budget spends a little more, primarily on a new economic incentive fund designed to turn NC-based research into marketable products. The differences between the NC House version and the NC Senate version will be worked out in a budget Conference Committee over the next few weeks.
The NC Senate version of the budget differs also in how it spends funds for health and human services, education and other programs that affect those on the autism spectrum. It adds 100 waiver slots more than the House budget, bringing the number to 350. DSP wage increases are in both budgets, assuring that there will be a rate increase to support direct support professionals. There is 5 million in additional funds for Competitive Integrated Employment activities: a major focus of the administration, and hopefully this NCGA, is to ensure that people with disabilities, including those with autism, find and keep community-based employment.
Missing from both proposals is an end to the 13% cap on special education funds to local school districts, however, both the House and Senate budget special provisions direct DPI to develop a school funding model using “weighted funding” for Exceptional Children students and report to the Joint Education Oversight Committee on their proposal by January 15, 2024. A weighted funding model would likely remove the EC funding cap in favor of one that funded students with disabilities based on categories of need.
There are some additional issues as well: Neither budget fully funds the requested DHHS Medicaid rebase, calling into question the impact that 90 million fewer dollars than proposed will have on Medicaid operations over the two-year budget cycle. The Senate budget removed 15 million from single stream funds to the LME MCOs, which supports programs not covered by Medicaid, including services to youth on the autism spectrum. In addition, long time funding from state and federal grants to non-profit organizations, including The Autism Society of North Carolina was left out of the Senate version of the budget. Senate leaders have said they are working to restore those funds during the budget conference process.
Information is on some of those key differences between the House, Senate and Governor’s office proposals is available in this PDF.
Budget Special Provisions
Every budget includes policy language that directs how funds in the budget should be used, but sometimes legislation that affects services funded by the state will makes its way into the budget bill as well.
Included in the House budget special provisions (but not the Senate) is House Bill 605 regarding School Threat Assessment Teams in public schools (programs like this are voluntary in non-public schools). Threat Assessment Teams have generated some controversy and have raised concerns among advocates, parents and professionals about the impact of these threat assessments on the education of students with disabilities. Behavioral health professionals have cited difficulties in determining which specific students pose a significant threat in schools. Advocates point out that schools may already be biased against students with disabilities and lacking the resources to address their problems, resulting in students being removed from school rather than getting access to the services and supports they need.
ASNC continues to monitor the progress of the budget and provide feedback to legislators on how these proposals affect people on the autism spectrum, their families, and those that serve them. If you have questions about the budget proposal or other public policy issues please contact Jennifer Mahan, Director of Public Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can view the state budget proposals by going to the North Carolina General Assembly webpage and checking out the link to “2023 budget” on the left side of the home page under “News and Information.” “Bill text” is the entire budget document including the special provisions and “Committee Report” is the information on specific line items in the budget, sometimes referred to as the money report. Please note before printing that budget documents are hundreds of pages long.Tags: autism, autism employment, autism legislation, autism medicaid, autism north carolina, Autism Society of North Carolina, direct support professional, legislation, NC state budget, ncga, North Carolina General Assembly, public policy