Local News

Easley Putting More Floyd Money Into Escrow Account

Posted August 5, 2002 1:18 a.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley said Monday he will try to protect Hurricane Floyd relief money from legislative budget writers by putting $176 million of it into a special escrow account.

The account has $120 million remaining of funds that Easley had used to meet a $1.6 billion shortfall in the 2001-02 fiscal year.

It's unclear whether Easley's action Monday would have any practical effect on lawmakers writing a budget for the current fiscal year. The Legislature can appropriate any money it deems necessary to balance the budget.

But Easley said putting the money aside will make sure it's spent on Hurricane Floyd recovery needs. "That way we don't have to worry about the Legislature appropriating it and using it for other causes," he said.

House budget writers went ahead last week and plugged the $120 million in the account into their proposed state spending plan.

Rep. David Redwine, D-Brunswick, a co-chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the House's $14 billion budget plan - expected to rolled out this week - will also include $50 million pulled from hurricane relief money.

Easley doesn't want either fund touched.

"I'm trying to remind people that the problem is not fixed, that the recovery is still in process," he said Monday. "We owe it not only to the victims, but also to our reputation as a state to meet our promises and obligations."

The governor made his announcement during a tour of hurricane-damaged areas in Pender and Pitt counties.

Easley visited home of Cynthia Bivens in Burgaw. She showed him a kitchen that doesn't have cabinets.

"It's kind of hard for a housewife to cook with no cabinets," she said.

Bivens said she had 43 inches of water in her house and six feet in her yard during the floods that accompanied Floyd.

She also showed the governor a bedroom that still has exposed particle board on the floor, no walls or insulation, no closets and an exposed tub. She said she has received $6,000 from FEMA.

Easley also stopped at Sand Hill AME Methodist Church, where people shouted out questions about their individual problems. One woman yelled, "The ones who lost everything and had to buy a new home - are you going to help us?"

Another man yelled, "We don't understand the politics of it. All we know is we need help."