Local Politics

Senate leader says education cuts possible

Posted January 19, 2009 3:24 p.m. EST

— A growing budget deficit could force state lawmakers to cut education spending, an idea that previously had been unthinkable, Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said Monday.

Fiscal analysts have projected the deficit to hit $2 billion, or about 10 percent of the $21 billion budget. Gov. Beverly Perdue has ordered state agencies to cut spending by 7 percent to erase half of the deficit, and she appealed last week to members of the North Carolina congressional delegation and the incoming Obama administration for federal help to erase the rest.

Rand noted that 60 percent of the state budget goes to education, while another 20 percent goes to the Department of Health and Human Services and 10 percent goes to the Department of Correction. Lawmakers would be hard-pressed to cut DHHS or corrections because of the much-publicized problems in state mental hospitals and with the probation system, he said.

Making up the deficit out of the 10 percent of the budget allocated to other programs would be nearly impossible, which could put education cuts on the table, Rand said.

The General Assembly convenes on Jan. 28.