Local Politics

Senate rolls out $19B spending plan

Posted May 18, 2010 5:40 p.m. EDT

State budget

— Less than a week after convening for the 2010 legislative session, the state Senate got its first look Tuesday at the nearly $19 billion budget proposal subcommittees have drafted in recent days.

The proposed budget, which is expected to come up for an initial vote on Wednesday, is $150 million less than the spending plan suggested last month by Gov. Beverly Perdue. It also marks the first time in four years that the Senate has come up with a budget below the $19 billion mark.

"This budget is not without pain, believe me," said Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "There is pain, but we are living in, as you know, unprecedented times."

Although both Perdue and lawmakers profess support for education, key differences have emerged in their spending priorities.

Perdue, for example, called for pay raises for teachers and for repaying all state workers for furloughs and pay cuts they were forced to take a year ago to balance the 2008-09 budget. Neither item is in Senate Bill 897.

"The teachers I've talked to agree no one should get a pay increase if their colleagues might get laid off to pay for it," said Sen. A.B. Swindell, D-Nash, co-chairman of the appropriations committee.

"We've done everything we can do to protect the classroom and to keep teachers in the classroom," said Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth, co-chairwoman of the committee.

The Senate provides an extra $81 million for public schools, the University of North Carolina system and the community college system over Perdue's proposal. It comes at the expense of deeper cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services and public safety operations, such as the Department of Correction and the state courts system.

"We would have liked to see more money for probation officers (in the Senate budget)," Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said. "We believe they need an increase in pay so they can retain and recruit good quality officers."

Both the Senate and Perdue proposed tax credits for small businesses in their budgets. The Senate's $47 million in credits would benefit an estimated 275,000 to 300,000 small businesses statewide, while the governor's incentives are more targeted.

"The key is we not only protect existing jobs but we grow new jobs. That's what the governor was trying to accomplish," Pearson said.