Local News

Loss Of Top State Budget Writers May Lead To Longer Debate In Legislature

Posted November 12, 2002

— Thanks to election night, seven of the top budget writers in the House and Senate will not be back. Experts fear the loss of their experience could lead to an even longer budget debate next year.

Some of the men and women who spearheaded the $14 billion state budget either retired or were defeated in the election. The Senate lost Aaron Plyler, D-Union, who retired. Chapel Hill's Howard Lee, D-Orange, and Fountain Odom, D-Mecklenburg, were defeated for re-election.

In the House, Ruth Easterling, D-Mecklenburg, and Pete Oldham, D-Forsyth, retired. Gregg Thompson, R-Mitchell, ran for the Senate and lost and David Redwine, D-Brunswick, appears to have lost a close race. The News and Observer's Rob Christensen said the losses leaves both chambers like a captain without a ship.

"[It's] sort of like [when] the Titanic hits the iceberg and the captain is gone missing," he said.

John Hood, of the John Locke Foundation, said the billion-dollar budget headaches will be back next year.

"The fact that both parties are going to be reinventing the wheel on the appropriations committee means there is going to be a lot of disagreement and a long session and perhaps a very difficult one," he said.

"It's going to be a very difficult time under the best of cirsumstances. They've already had budget cuts. They've already raised taxes, so this makes it doubly difficult," Christensen said.

Lawmakers are still faced with of the question of who is going to lead as Speaker of the House. Budget chairmen are chosen by the leaders of the House and Senate chambers. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet in a special session Wednesday. The new legislative session begins Jan. 29.

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