State News

Lawmakers give final OK to state budget

Posted July 8, 2008

— Both chambers on Tuesday passed the final budget bill for state government.

Late Tuesday, the House voted 97-20 for the $21.4 billion spending plan for the new fiscal year. Earlier in the day,  the Senate passed the bill 32-14.

Both chambers gave tentative approval to the plan Monday night.

The bill nows goes to the desk of Gov. Mike Easley, who can sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

A governor's office spokesman said there is no time frame for when Easley may sign the bill. The spokesman said Easley hasn't had time to review the entire budget but believes "some positives" happened over the weekend while lawmakers were working on the budget.

The budget raises overall spending by $700 million compared to a year ago. Democratic leaders argue it's a small increase compared to the overall budget.

Some Republicans complain that $857 million in borrowing authorized in the plan will lead to future tax increases.

"We've heard a lot of talk about how consumers have gotten in trouble by what is referred to as predatory lending. I like to refer to the borrowing that's taking place in this budget as predatory borrowing,” said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham County).

The state budget borrows $107 million to pay for the Green Square Project, a joint venture by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Museum of Natural Sciences and the State Employees Credit Union to reshape part of downtown Raleigh. The project will provide office space for the DENR, expand the museum and renovate the credit union, according to the DENR's web site.

The budget also borrows money for new buildings on state college campuses.

Chief House budget negotiator, Rep. Mickey Micheaux (D-Durham), stands by the current proposal.

“We didn't raise taxes, we spent less than we have been spending before. Because of the large amount that we're putting into construction there are a lot of people that are going to be going to work,” Micheaux said.

The budget sets aside money for teacher and state employee pay raises and local law enforcement and probation departments.

Cuts were made to the Mental Health Services division. John Tote, executive director of the N.C. Mental Health Association, said a lack of investment now could lead to problems in the future.


Hog Bill

Elsewhere in the legislature, a Senate committee cleared a bill that would allow a hog farmer to rebuild after a fire or switch swine operation type without having to follow tougher rules on the books.

The measure approved Tuesday seeks to grandfather in swine operations built before 1995. Those built after that date are required to stay at least one half-mile from a school and 1,500 feet from any home.

Molly Diggins with the state Sierra Club opposes the bill. She told the committee the change would prevent surrounding homeowners from having a say on rejecting such setback requirements.

The bill also provides a similar exception if the farms wanted to expand the living areas for pregnant sows.

The bill now goes to the full Senate.

Drought Plan

A modified proposal from Gov. Mike Easley that gives the state more power to curb water use during droughts is advancing in the House.

The House Environment Committee voted Tuesday to approve the measure.

The bill gives the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the authority to step in when it determines local water systems are not sufficiently reducing water use during shortages.
State law already requires that all municipalities and water systems create their own conservation plans.

Administration officials, local government groups and farmers had worked on the compromise plan for weeks.

Lawmakers conceded the plan isn't perfect but said it's a good way for the state to start tackling water shortages.


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  • davidgnews Jul 9, 2008

    State employees get 2.75%..Easley's wife get 88% raise

    There's a glaring part of the problem right there.

    How do Rand and Basnight manage to get by all of this stuff while everyone around them gets in trouble?

  • Bendal1 Jul 9, 2008

    The $1100 amount is how much lower-paid state employees will be given; if that much is more than 2.75% of your salary, then that's how much you'll get instead of the % raise. The break even point is at $40,000, so anyone making less than that will get $1100 added to their salary instead of getting the 2.75% raise.

  • mrr03 Jul 9, 2008

    Just plain PITIFUL..State employees get 2.75%..Easley's wife get 88% raise..A trooper gets fired for mishandling a dog yet a DOT employee get his job back for assaulting a school bus driver..FOLKS..this Easley administration is pure nuts..or are we nuts for allowing such a mess to exit in State Government.

  • CestLaVie Jul 9, 2008

    Let's face it, whatelseisnew: MOST of us are losing money, if any of us are driving vehicles, eating, owning homes - i.e., just TRYING to exist. I'm not talking luxuries here either, just plain old necessities - like PAYING my mortgage, instead of copping out on it.

    Now all those of you who are in foreclosure because you LOST your good-paying jobs, don't jump on me. I'm referring to those who are, in fact, copping out on their payments JUST to force foreclosure & bankruptcy due to ignorance, laziness, or incompetence. I KNOW they exist, and shame on them. They are a huge part of this mortgage industry problem we have today.

    As a state employee who got a whopping 2.75% RAISE, that figures to an EXTRA $87 or so a month, which probably put me in another tax bracket & I'll get PENNIES of a raise in my paycheck - BIG WHOOP!!!!!!!!!! And that's putting it nicely so WRAL won't delete me!!!!!!!!!

  • NothingBetterToDo Jul 8, 2008

    Maybe they figure crime is gonna increase as inflation does & folks will start stealing gas & food to feed their families & we will all need a new bed to sleep in while we're locked up.

  • NothingBetterToDo Jul 8, 2008

    Is the 1,100 dollars a bonus or a raise? a bonus means we only get it one time? most of the time when they give a dollar amount that is all we get. And I make under 30,000
    July 8, 2008 3:40 p.m

    The $1,100.00 is a raise. It's 2.75% or $1,100.00 whichever is greater. Figure that up. $1,100.00/12=$92.00 per month minus gas which as I've heard may soon be $7.00 a gallon - minus the 25% increase in state health insurance premiums because of the $65,000,000.00 deficit - minus the increase in food costs at the grocery store....Let's see what else can we subtract from our "raise". I love being in the hole on payday!!!! I wish I did know what kind of raise they gave themselves when they passed this crummy budget. Guarantee everyone's taxes will increase next year while the prisoners have nice new comfy beds with the $857,000,000.00 budget debt they're passing to pay for these beds.

  • Iseeu Jul 8, 2008

    Is the 1,100 dollars a bonus or a raise? a bonus means we only get it one time? most of the time when they give a dollar amount that is all we get. And I make under 30,000

  • whatelseisnew Jul 8, 2008

    jailorjoe1978 I will trade you, I got 0%, actually I lost money cost my county property taxes went up again.

  • NothingBetterToDo Jul 8, 2008

    My fellow mushrooms of NC, we do not demand accountability. We re-elect no matter what they do. Why can't we see the state payroll and the amounts - should be public information it is tax payers money. The books should be opened - what are they afraid of
    July 8, 2008 2:55 p.m

    Actually my salary is public record.
    I would tell you my name but that isn't going to be public record and fyi I'm on the low end of these salaries (less than $35,000.00). I'm sure you could find this info published in lots of other places also if you'd just look instead of complaining about not knowing.

  • enoughsenough Jul 8, 2008

    You can access how much govt. employees make on WRAL. Under key words search put in public records and it will pull every agency up including the city of Raleigh and County.