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Easley Dealing With Larger Budget Crisis Than Expected

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley is dealing with a larger budget crisis than he expected. Easley and state lawmakers had been working under the assumption that the shortfall would be between $900 million and $1.2 billion. The latest numbers show a budget deficit of at least $1.5 billion.

The fallout in revenues will mean that the governor will have to find $400 million to $500 million to balance this year's budget by June 30, but he said he will not cut jobs.

"Cutting positions does not help much. [It's a] different situation for next year," Easley said. "What you'll see this year is try to get more revisions back in. We've told all state agencies not to spend another dime."

While Easley must balance this year's budget, state lawmakers have started work on a new budget for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. Analysts said that budget is already $2 billion in the red.

Senate majority leader Tony Rand, D-Fayetteville, said there is cause for panic.

"I think people will, you know, continue to dig in and try to make sure we make those hard decisions that will preserve education and preserve the programs that are so essential to North Carolina's future," he said.

Easley has seized $1.2 billion to balance the budget by June 30. That amount includes $60 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund.

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