Local Politics

Higher taxes could be in state budget equation

Posted June 5, 2009 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated June 6, 2009 12:15 p.m. EDT

— House Democrats working to fill a budget hole of more than $4 billion said Friday that spending cuts are so deep and severe that higher taxes might be the only way to alleviate some of the pain.

Saying that cuts without taxes will be too devastating, House Finance Committee Chairwoman Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, said Friday that House leaders are in discussions about ways to raise revenue.

As it stands now, the House’s spending proposal calls for increasing class sizes in public schools, hiking tuition at state colleges and universities, closing prisons and making significant cuts to, or in some cases, eliminating services. Among the cuts: $171 million from the Department of Correction and more than $1 billion from the Department of Health and Human Services.

House leaders said that they are being inundated with e-mail from constituents who say the proposed cuts cannot happen and that they are willing to see increased taxes.

“This week was a wake-up call for people,” said Rep. Ty Harrell, D-Wake. “The phone is ringing off the hook. The e-mail is continuing to grow.”

Republican consultant Carter Wrenn said he has seen a similar pattern by Democrats. He said that in the past they have insisted only on budget cuts but then, because of a public outcry, have agreed to new taxes.

The most recent entry on his blog is entitled “The Big Scam.” Wrenn thinks the budget crisis is very real but he believes enough waste and pet projects can be eliminated from the budget without sacrificing services.

“I think we’ve never had the debate on waste,” Wrenn said. “Instead, we had a debate on cutting some things that people really need, and given that choice, the reaction was, ‘OK, let's raise taxes.’”

A House budget with a revenue package is not a done deal, but more and more Democrats are speculating it might not be a matter of whether taxes are included but what kind.

Gov. Bev Perdue and the Senate have said a cuts-only approach to balancing the budget is not in the best interest of the state.