Local Politics

Easley: Perdue's experience will help with budget

Posted December 18, 2008 5:46 p.m. EST
Updated December 18, 2008 8:21 p.m. EST

— Governor-elect Beverly Perdue's legislative background will help her lead North Carolina through a growing budget crisis, Gov. Mike Easley said Thursday.

In interviews with WRAL News, Perdue and Easley said the economy will overshadow all other issues that the state will face in the coming months.

Fiscal analysts have said the state budget deficit will top $1 billion this year, and some have said it could reach $3 billion for the fiscal year that starts next July.

"It won't be easy, but I'm good at (making) tough decisions," Perdue said. "I know going into it that I can balance the budget and move North Carolina forward and create some new jobs while I'm doing that."

Easley was in a similar position when he took office in 2001. The state budget was close to $1 billion in the hole, and he used various fiscal maneuvers and shepherded a half-cent sales tax increase through the General Assembly to balance the budget.

Although the deficit might be bigger this year, Easley said, Perdue will be in a better position than he was because of her experience.

"She may be the most qualified person to ever run for governor," he said. "She's got 22 years of experience as a member of the House (and the Senate), and then in the Senate (she served) as chair of Appropriations (Committee), which is the budget. So, she knows the budget inside and out.

"She knows how to handle these things, and that's going to give her an advantage that I didn't have," he said.

Easley ordered state agencies to begin cutting their budgets by 2 percent in September, and he recently told department officials to draft plans for Perdue that outline how they would cut their budgets by up to 7 percent.

He said he wanted to lessen the budget burden on Perdue as much as possible.

Another factor in Perdue's favor is the sluggish national economy, according to Easley. States are in such bad shape that President-elect Barack Obama is pushing a massive stimulus package to create jobs, generate spending and build needed infrastructure.

Perdue said she plans to lobby aggressively to ensure the state gets its share of any federal stimulus funding.

"North Carolina needs those revenue streams to build our own economy and to put our own people to work," she said.

Perdue said she hasn't and won't beg for federal support, but said she thinks it's appropriate for the government to help the states because they are suffering from the fallout of questionable business practices by banks and others whoare receiving government assistance during the financial crisis.

"We're the ones who feel the hurt," she said. "Our unemployment rate recently went up (again). Our home foreclosures are way up. Our real estate sales are way down. So, in North Carolina, we're feeling the derivatives of a situation we didn't create."

To lead the state through the tough times, she said, everyone in her administration will share her commitment to moving the state forward.

"My administration is going to be highlighted – a big, yellow highlight and an exclamation point – (by) ethical, hands-on, transparent leadership," she said. "I'm going to demand that from every single person I've got in a leadership role, and if they don't deliver, I'm going to figure out a way to get rid of them."