Local News

Easley Unveils Plans For State Budget

Posted May 10, 2004

— Gov. Mike Easley released his recommended budget Monday for the state spending year that starts in July.

In his proposed budget, Easley promises state workers their first raise in three years -- a proposed 2 percent pay increase, plus a $250 one-time bonus, which is less than the five percent requested.

"I wish I could do more by way of raises and I will as soon as revenues allow," he said.

Easley plans to continue bonuses for teachers whose schools meet ABC standards. He also wants to spend more to reduce class sizes and improve the state's pre-kindergarten More at Four Program.

After years of costly weather damage, the governor proposes putting another $100 million back into the state's rainy day fund.

Easley's priority list far exceeds the $200 million tax surplus, so he is tapping into hundreds of millions in unspent money from the current fiscal year. He is also calling on state departments to trim $350 million from next year's spending plans.

However this year, Easley's budget proposal does not call for a statewide lottery.

"I wanted to use the lottery and I still do. They are not going to be able to make their tax cuts until they get the lottery," he said.

Lawmakers like House Speaker Jim Black expect a relatively warm reception for the budget plan. Black said he believes his colleagues will look to build on it with such projects as multimillion dollar medical research facilities at University of North Carolina campuses.

"There's an innovative plan that will be moving forward -- the legislation has been drawn -- that will require no more additional money out of the general fund," he said.

Easley said he did not include those research facilities in his budget plan because he is worried about the state's debt service.

Two candidates running for the Republican nomination for governor said Easley has the wrong idea about the budget. Bill Cobey told WRAL, "One would assume that the Governor would do the honest thing and give the surplus back to the taxpayers. Easley has decided to horde the money for his pet projects." Patrick Ballantine told WRAL, "Mike Easley has gone on a spending spree and taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill."

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