State News

Lawmakers balk at proposed tax increases

Posted May 13, 2008

— State lawmakers were back in Raleigh Tuesday and ready to work on the budget, though not necessarily as Gov. Mike Easley presented it.

The General Assembly reconvened at noon Tuesday to allow lawmakers to adjust the second year of the two-year state budget that they passed last summer.

Budget-writers said they hope to finish the budget adjustments and get them to Easley's desk before the new budget year begins July 1.

Easley presented his own ideas to lawmakers Monday, unveiling a $21.5 billion spending plan that would raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol to fund a 7 percent raise for public school teachers and spend an extra $68 million on mental health programs.

The lawmakers reiterated their opposition to increasing taxes to balance the budget.

"In tough economic times. It's not the time to raise taxes," Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger said.

Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, also complained about the disparity in raises given to state employees. While Easley proposed giving a 7 percent raise to teachers to fulfill a campaign promise to move salaries to the national average before he leaves office next January, his budget calls for giving other state workers a 1.5 percent raise, as well as a one-time $1,000 bonus and an extra week of vacation.

"I think it will be difficult for us to pass a budget – a responsible budget – that includes an across-the-board increase of 7 percent for teachers," Berger said. "I think it's problematic to have a budget proposal that treats those state employees significantly differently than the remainder of state employees."

The budget proposal "looks like it was put together primarily to promote the governor's legacy" instead of to address pressing issues, he said.

Democrats also gave the proposed budget a cool response.

"What I'm hearing is that it will be a difficult row to hoe for him," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.

Both Michaux and Sen. Vernon Malone, D-Wake, said lawmakers will have to come up with other ways to fund teacher raises and mental health spending. Easley said he is willing to listen to suggestions.

Peace College political science professor David McLennan said a bruising budget battle could ensue in what is supposed to be a short General Assembly session – and that could interfere with lawmakers' plans to campaign later this summer.

"Of all the budgets to come through, this could be one of the most contentious. The governor is not running again, and he wants to leave a legacy," McLennan said. "There could be a lot of head-butting."


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  • SilverWolf May 14, 2008

    The beast has grown too large to feed. It needs more and more to satisfy itself. Tax is its weapon and it wields it with power knowing that we will continue to lay down and do nothing to stop its endless hunger. At what point do we begin to realize our current form of government is flawed and doomed to failure? Will we all be broke and homeless when we begin to cry out? What about you Mr. Rich man? At what point do you begin to feel the crunch the rest of us have been feeling for the last 4 years or more? And you Mr. Poor man in the street, at what point will your voice be heard? When will you cry out for what was lost? And you, Mr. Middle Class? When will you stand up and shout to the powers that be that enough is enough? Our pensions have been stolen by corporate criminals while are jobs are being shipped to India, our homes being taken by the bank, we can barely feed our kids and they want more. Always more!

    Tell them loud and clear NO MORE TAXES!!!

  • shellbelle May 14, 2008

    Glad to see that there are some that finally think the disparity between the teachers and 'regular' state employee pay raise is a problem. Since Easley's been in office - he has given the teachers more every chance he gets. I agree that something needed to be done originally, but their pay has increased (never mind the bonuses that they can qualify for), hmmmm what about being fair to all? Guess we'll wait and see.

  • Garnerwolf1 May 14, 2008

    As previously stated, the Gov's budget has little resemblence to the final product. State employees will be lucky to get the 1.5%.

  • K9Tucker.LoveMYcop May 14, 2008

    I agree teachers need a raise, wasn't that supposed to be one of the advantages of the state lottery. Raise taxes, that's there answer for everything.

  • whatelseisnew May 14, 2008

    Bass Pro 3

    Well if you do not want the 1.5 increase or the 1000 dollars, I will take it. In the last 5 years I have seen 0 percent, so I would gladly take your slap in the face. The real problem is that the State Government has allowed itself to get too big. So providing decent raises gets to be more and more of a problem. We are way over-taxed already so they try to get money around the fringes like the proposed Cigarette and Alcohol tax. The state needs to get serious; eliminate nice to haves and focus on the basic services. That would allow them to better fund those services and provide better pay to the employees that are doing all the state jobs.

  • 1Rx4FN May 14, 2008

    Why is Easley waiting until the end of his term to try and move teacher salaries to the national average? I would think a gradual increase over the past couple of years would fly better than trying to increase it all at once. Did he forget his promise until the end? Seems like poor planning in his department to me. Here, I'll raise your salary if you vote for me, oh by the way it won't be until after I leave office. If it doesn't pass, I not coming back but I tried. I love this accountability thing.

  • OLD PIRATE 2 May 14, 2008

    This Gov. lied his way into office, now is trying to lie his way out. He simply made promises years ago and now in one last effort, wants to tax NC more to keep them.

  • Bass Pro 3 May 13, 2008

    I hope Senator Berger and the other Legislators stand their ground on this one..a 1.5% raise for State employees is a slap in the face. After the State and the Feds get their cut of the $1000 bonus, how much is really take-home pay? My other half is a Magistrate and doesn't get vacation to begin with so that's a mute gift. The office has been short-handed since last August so the Magistrates have worked 24 hour shifts just to keep the office open 24/7 as required. So tell me, where's the justice in what Easly has proposed for State employees? What difference does it make if teachers get to the national average for pay...most only "teach to the test" to begin with and test grades have not increased as quickly as their pay or their bonuses. They earn their money, and I have no doubt about that, but other State employees work just as hard and diligently as teachers and have had the short end of the money pot for years. Enough said except, "Go back to Brunswick County Easley!"

  • whatelseisnew May 13, 2008

    Ah yes, the sweet smell of an election year. The only time when grabbing more dollars from the hapless taxpayer becomes a concern. Maybe we need to move to once a year elections to keep the bilge rats in line. Want some ideas where to cut guys? Start with your pay and per diem, cut it in half. Then tell the Governor the mansion needs to close and he can cook his own food and drive his own vehicle. Then go on over to the DPI and slash and burn. Cut their budget by half. Take that money and divy it up amongst the state employees.

  • benno May 13, 2008

    You people like this stuff? Keep on voting Democrat at the state level.