Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) announced that North Carolina had paid off the $2.8 billion debt it owed to the federal government for unemployment insurance benefits and noted that the state had done so three years ahead of schedule. Additionally, a joint report was published by the Office of State Budget and Management and the legislature’s non-partisan Fiscal Research Division which predicted that North Carolina will collect $400 million more in revenue this year than the state expected. The House and the Senate returned to action today, Monday, May 11th.

Economy and Economic Development

WINSTON SALEM JOURNAL: Broad Cuts, Narrow Tax Breaks Boost NC Businesses  North Carolina legislators who say their decision to cut corporate and personal income taxes two years ago spurred job growth are again debating whether to preserve elective tax breaks Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration has wanted to expand for months. State leaders are under pressure because wages, income growth and poverty are worse than the U.S. average even though 123,000 jobs were added between January 2014 and March.

NEWS & OBSERVER: Revenue Surplus Colors House Budget Talks  State House budget writers will have almost $1.1 billion more available as they craft the state’s next spending plan – a better-than-expected number that will provide more flexibility than in recent budget years. A new projection from the state budget office and the legislature’s fiscal research staff comes as the House appropriations chairmen held lengthy closed-door meetings this week preparing to write a spending plan for the state that’s expected to total about $22 billion.

Education

WILMINGTON STAR NEWS: UNC Medical School Considering Branch Campus in Wilmington  The University of North Carolina School of Medicine is exploring the possibility of establishing a branch campus in Wilmington in collaboration with New Hanover Regional Medical Center. The hospital has teaching faculty in place and has already been hosting medical students from UNC on a rotating basis for decades.

Energy

GREENSBORO NEWS & RECORD: N.C.’s Renewable Energy Changes in Senate’s Hands  N.C. House members rejected an attempt by Rep. Pricey Harrison to undo recently adopted changes to renewable energy rules. In 2007, legislators — with Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, as a leading proponent — adopted rules that require public utilities to provide part of their energy from such renewable sources as wind and solar power.

WRAL: Recycling Foes Stall House Bill  Sponsors of a House omnibus county bill had to pull the measure off the floor Thursday after a battle broke out over fees for recycling programs. The debate over House Bill 430 was not expected to be contentious. The county omnibus bill is a biennial tradition that addresses concerns county commissioners bring to the legislature.

In the Courts

NEWS & OBSERVER: NC Supreme Court Sets August Hearing in Challenge to Redistricting  The N.C. Supreme Court issued notice Thursday that it would hear arguments in August on challenges to the 2011 redistricting maps that outline legislative and congressional districts across North Carolina. The notice comes nearly three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to North Carolina’s highest court with instructions to reconsider a December decision that upheld the maps.

NEWS & OBSERVER: Feds Discontinue Civil Forfeiture, Keep $107K Seized from Store Owner  Under mounting pressure, the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department have announced in recent months that they will no longer use a law designed to go after drug dealers and terrorists to seize the bank accounts of small business owners who are not suspected of criminal activity.

Transportation

CHARLOTTE OBSEERVER: 4 State High Speed Rail Compact Being Discussed  The nation’s top transportation official says he’s more optimistic that high-speed rail will eventually become a reality in the Southeast after Georgia and South Carolina expressed interest in a joint agreement between North Carolina and Virginia to study, coordinate and advocate for the project.

NEWS & OBSERVER: Raleigh Beltline Backups to Get Serious in Coming Weeks  Beltline traffic has been less horrible – so far – than Triangle commuters expected when the state Department of Transportation began rebuilding Interstates 40 and 440 across South Raleigh last year. But our good fortune may soon end. Starting in a week or two, road crews will push three traffic lanes to the outside – with some drivers relegated to the freeway shoulders – so they can demolish the inside lanes along 4 miles of I-40 between Lake Wheeler Road and U.S. 1 at Cary.