Local Politics

Stimulus money on way to N.C.

Posted February 23, 2009 2:45 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— Money from the massive federal economic stimulus package could start coming to North Carolina by Wednesday, Gov. Beverly Perdue said Monday.

Perdue met with President Barack Obama during a National Governors Association meeting at which he outlined the expectations for spending the $787 billion designed to jump-start the flagging U.S. economy.

The governor plans to fly to Lenoir, Mecklenburg and Alamance counties Tuesday to promote the first three road projects to get funding through the stimulus package. The projects are Crescent Road in Kinston, N.C. Highway 218 in Mint Hill and Interstate 85/40 near the Alamance-Guilford county line.

State officials plan to create a Web site similar to the federal Recovery.gov site so taxpayers can track how stimulus money is being spent.

"We're going to keep a running tally of people employed. We're going to keep a running tally of the investments that we've made in this state," Perdue said. "We're not going to throw money away. We're going to be efficient and sophisticated and put away the partisan fighting and focus on rebuilding North Carolina."

Perdue talked briefly with Obama in an effort to secure a greater share of the stimulus package for North Carolina, especially since some Republican governors have said they don't plan to use some or all of their allotments. But she said she couldn't get a commitment from Obama, so it appears no more money will be forthcoming.

"I don't know what the future holds. I wish I had a crystal ball," Perdue said.

The president did pledge that $15 billion in stimulus money would be released to the states on Wednesday to help with Medicaid bills for low-income people.

Perdue has expressed disappointment that the state won't receive more than $6.1 billion, saying she thought the federal money could help plug some holes in the state budget. Fiscal analysts project a $2 billion deficit in the 2008-09 budget, growing to more than $3 billion next year.

State Controller David McCoy said Monday that state revenues fell 14.3 percent in January from a year ago, including a 21.4 percent drop in personal income tax collections. State spending was down 1.7 percent overall in January, although spending on education and health and human services was up 5.9 percent.

"Revenue growth is slowing dramatically,” McCoy said in a statement. “This decline was expected, and the state’s financial plan was adjusted, but we are continuing to feel the strain of budget pressures. The federal economic stimulus package will ease some of our concerns, but North Carolina must work to align spending and revenue. We must work to maintain the structural balance in the state budget for North Carolina to continue its long-term fiscal stability.”

Perdue ordered state agencies last month to cut spending by 7 percent to help reduce the deficit, and she said Friday that deeper cuts will be likely without the stimulus money to use however the state wanted. She said laying off state workers is a last resort, and the stimulus money should head off any teacher layoffs through the end of the fiscal year.

"That's a statement between now and June 30. If the budget continues to erode the way some of those predictions I talked with you last week predict that they will erode, then who knows what will happen next year," she said.