State News

Perdue orders more cuts as legislature begins work

Posted January 28, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Gov. Beverly Perdue has ordered the heads of state agencies to dig deeper for cuts to their budgets.

Perdue recently received a list of possible cuts from the directors of various departments, totaling almost $583 million. But she said Wednesday she doesn't believe the recommendations represent across-the-board cuts that will help the state erase a projected $2 billion budget deficit.

The news came as the North Carolina General Assembly returned to work to face the state's worst fiscal situation in a generation. The House and Senate began their two-year sessions at noon Wednesday in Raleigh, and the state budget will likely dominate the session.

Lt. Gov. Water Dalton Senate convenes for 2009 session

"This is the worst budget situation I've seen, and I've been here 28 years," said Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, who was elected to his second term as House Speaker.

Perdue ordered state agencies to cut their budgets by 7 percent to begin closing the budget gap. Some of the proposed cuts include closing five minimum-security prisons statewide, as well as a prison hospital in Raeford; closing 25-bed psychiatric units at Broughton Hospital and Cherry Hospital; less money for highway maintenance; and reducing funding for the Smart Start childhood education program.

With the recent focus on neglect and abuse at state mental hospitals, disability advocates said they worry about cuts in community services.

"The crisis extends outside those (state) institutions. It extends to your neighbor's home when that child no longer receives services," said Julia Leggett, policy coordinator for The Arc of North Carolina, an advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities.

Still, some lawmakers said they see value in reducing government.

"If we did all that cutting, we'd really only be going back to where we were two or three years ago, and the sky didn't fall two or three years ago," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake.

Lawmakers could have to find as much as $3 billion to cover the gap between revenues and expenses for government as the recession continues to eat into tax collections.

"We know we've got to tighten out belts," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.

Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, who was named to a record ninth term as Senate leader, has said the state might raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, but many lawmakers are averse to raising sales or income taxes like they did during the 1991 and 2001 budget crises.

"We certainly are looking to avoid the kinds of major taxes that we needed to raise in 2001," said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham.

North Carolina is in relatively better shape than surrounding states when it comes to its fiscal picture. The state has nearly $800 million in its rainy day reserve fund, and officials hope the proposed federal stimulus package will cover part of the deficit.

Basnight said "this session will focus on jobs, jobs and jobs" at a time when revenues were dwindling.

"We have to be careful, we have to be steady, and we have to have no errors," he told his colleagues. "I would encourage you not to find your way out of this difficulty with cuts alone."

Republicans have argued recently that the state could be better off if Democrats hadn't increased spending by nearly 10 percent in 2006 and 2007.

"I think we need all 50 people in (the Senate) to come up with a solution," said Sen. Eddie Goodall, R-Union. "It won't be a time to go back and say, 'I told you so.'"

Aside from the budget, other pressing issues facing lawmakers this year are efforts by communities to limit the ability of municipalities to forcibly annex neighborhoods, a proposed smoking ban in public areas like restaurants and questions about whether the insurance pool that covers damage to coastal properties has enough money to pay claims from a major hurricane.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • emerald7575 Jan 30, 2009

    Tired of NC Government: GREAT, can you please list the wed sight for for this information?

  • whatusay Jan 29, 2009

    NC needs to eliminate the state income tax and go to a state sales tax. Wouldn't need most of the employees at the NC State Revenue Service. Wouldn't have to file state income taxes. The illegals would be paying their fair share of taxes also. The more you make the more you spend and the more taxes go to the state, no loop-holes. Many states have this system (Florida, Tennessee). Wake up NC.

  • pbjbeach Jan 29, 2009

    People posting on here had may as well shut-up an quit blogging on here for not anyone of our politicans will read what is said on these blogs an even if they were to they wouldn't do or even try to do anything aboout what people are blogging about on here for they just dont care or give a " D " as long as that their pockets are kept fat an full an they contunie to draw their salary's an their benefits an get to eat an drink for free on the public dole. why should they care ? I personnaly think that they should care but the sad truth is that they just plain dont care about what is being blogged about here or any where excerise in futritly to continue blogging here. someone bloggin here accuse bev of be a republican when in fact that is exactly what she is a closet republican an not a democrat bone in her body just another political whore that will sell her sole for the right price to the special instrest in this state just as MIKEY DID thank you

  • Hatchcover Jan 29, 2009

    hatchcover.....I supposed you didn't read another post of mine then....we call them FREDDIE MAC, and FANNIE MAE.

    As expected - you have no clue!

  • HadEnough Jan 29, 2009

    Want to find the people who need to be fired in state government?
    Just look at the salary increases for the past four years at all state agencies. At my agency, there are many whose pay has jumped 50% or more in the past four years. That is a crime.

  • Eduardo1 Jan 29, 2009

    Tiredofncgovernment.................WOW, WHAT A LISTING.....What you really missed was our University & College ATHLETIC COACHES.AND STAFF ALSO HOW ABOUT ERSKINE BOWLES and the list goes on.

  • CestLaVie Jan 29, 2009

    I agree with you, seemingly. That's ONE place to start with cuts.

    Personally, I know of a co-worker state employee who is late to work every day, not by just a few minutes, but a half hour or hour or MORE. Said worker has been doing this for YEARS; one prev supervisor tried to do something about it & got nowhere. Current supervisors are probably working on dismissal for tardiness reasons alone. I hear that the personnel dept is involved & that there are various reasons why this is NOT happening-seemingly mostly political or power plays or.......??

    In a private company, this person would have been fired years ago. But it takes an act of who-knows-what to accomplish it with State govt. Ridiculous, huh??

    SSSSOOOOOO......take this ONE example of ONE State employee & multiply it x hundreds. Agencies & divisions have PLENTY of places & people where they can cut their budgets....don't let anyone make you think otherwise.

    Too bad Gov Perdue doesn't know & understand this.

  • Seeminglyopposed Jan 29, 2009

    DOT has cut their temps and contractors, etc. DOC has yet to get rid of their RE-UPs and other people who have already retired and still back on the system, please tell us when all agencies are going to be held accountable before all state workers with one income is going to be affected. If one agency has to get rid of people who are contractors or are retired and are allowed back why can others keep theirs? These jobs can be held by people they are already there......

  • Timetogo Jan 29, 2009

    Ya know what happens when the economy drops and people get laid-off? MANY come to community colleges for re-training. We've had tremendous increases in students the last two semesters and they've cut our money to the point where we can barely operate. STOP draining the schools that teach you!!!!

  • agentm Jan 29, 2009

    yes start cutting some of these big heads pay ...i still dont get how some people get these big pay raises and noone else ...example our last govners wife wth her huge pay raise ...and noone else got a big raise.....and alot of wasteful spending goes on..