Local Politics

Budget negotiations progress slowly

Posted June 19, 2009

— Conference committees have met much of this week to hammer out differences in the House and Senate budgets and reach a compromise proposal. But some groups are showing much less progress than others after several days of work.

Senators and House members have squared off over every line in the Department Health and Human Services budget to determine where to make cuts.

North Carolina flag, NC flag, state flag, N.C. flag House, Senate work on state budget

"I can't vote to close (mental health) beds when people can't get in," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe. "If the answer is we cut because we had to, that's not a good answer."

DHHS Secretary Lanier Cansler said the process is slow "because it's painful."

Nesbitt defended the sluggish pace but said proposed cuts are too deep.

"Everything we're dealing with is very important, so you should go slow," he said. "I do not think we will come to an agreement within the amount of revenue we have."

Down the hall in the Legislative Building, the committee reviewing the education budget has agreed on 80 percent of the items.

"The real contention you're seeing in our room now is between how much goes into K-12 (and) how much money is restored to the universities," said Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison.

Rapp said the House doesn't support funding university enrollment growth and instead wants to maintain class sizes in kindergarten through the third grade and add no more than two students in the fourth through 12th grades.

"I think the Senate is more interested right now in perhaps adding three students across the board K-12, so that's a point of contention," he said.

With the June 30 deadline to pass a budget looming, many of the committees plan to work through the weekend.

Finance committees, for example, need to agree on a plan to raise about $1 billion in new revenue.

Senate leaders on Thursday disclosed a plan to begin taxing dozens of services, from lawn care to car repairs, while lowering the state rates on sales and income taxes. Meanwhile, the House budget calls for a quarter-cent increase on the sales tax and higher income taxes on couples making more than $200,000 a year.

Gov. Beverly Perdue wants lawmakers to find $1 billion in additional revenue to avoid drastic cuts to education.


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  • hurricanesfan66 Jun 22, 2009

    Great idea--add more students to a class, K-12. Then, you will have more dropouts and they will in turn be guests in our prison system and/or drawing social services instead of getting a sound education and supporting themselves.

    Maybe we need to begin give competency exams to all prospective politicians--on both sides of the aisle.

  • Bendal1 Jun 22, 2009

    The first post on this subject is in la-la land if he thinks the state can do anything about gas prices. Cap gas at $0.99/gallon? That's my first laugh of the day, thanks for that.

    It certainly sounds like the usual ideological warfare is taking place in every legislative committee. There's always a special interest group arguing to keep funding at current levels, while there's always a Republican willing to state publicly "it's not necessary, let's cut it altogether".

    If the state's going to raise taxes, do so the Senate way so the rank and file citizens get a small break on sales/income taxes while only having to pay the extra tax on infrequent expenses. Raising the sales tax is a bad idea with everyone worrying about making ends meet.

  • NC_Beach_n_Mtn_guy Jun 19, 2009

    Maybe I overlooked the Legislture taking a salary cut, did anyone else find it? The state should lay off more teachers and transportation employees instead of prison guards and closing prisons. Where are they going to put allt those mentally ill folks when the prisons are closed as soon as they steal for a living? Poor folk... Oh yes, Bev has the lowest approval rating EVER for a NC governor. Can we impeach the governor for malpractice or dereliction of duty? The first thing that should be capped is fuel prices at 99 cents per gallon, does anyone know how this recession began? Chaney and company charging the military 6 bucks a gallon in Iraq when they are getting the oil for 10 cents per gallon and moving the prices to the US at the same time. PLEASE REFORM these government controlers NOW!!! before they run us back to Huck Finn times!!!