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Two Years Into Job, Gov. Easley Reflects On Budget, Politics

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When the lottery died on the House floor last week, Gov. Easley's centerpiece to plug the budget gap also died. It also looked like his education plan would be gutted and a complaint was filed with the state bar. Despite it all, Gov. Easley said he is not worried about the ups and downs that come with the job.

During his tenure as governor, Easley put the challenge of getting a statewide education lottery to state lawmakers, but in the end, a majority of them said no.

"It's OK if you don't like the lottery, but finish the sentence. If you're against the lottery, tell me what you're for," Easley said.

After the loss of the lottery, Easley said he turned his focus to the people in North Carolina.

"I stay focused on the people out in the communities and in the rural areas. They don't know what's going on up here. They just hope somebody's watching out for them," he said. "As soon as I saw the lottery was not going to pass, probably midway through the debate, I started focusing on how do we fix the budget, so there are no cuts in the classroom because I guaranteed the public I wasn't going to cut anything in the classroom."

Easley admitted that he was frustrated with some members of the state Legislature.

"There are many of them sitting on the sidelines and not participating in the debate," he said. "We also have a lot of them showing a lot of courage and committed to taking North Carolina forward even in the biggest recession we've had since the Great Depression."

Easley is almost mid-way in his 4-year term and does not appear to take the ups and downs personally.

"You don't worry about poll numbers. The numbers you have to worry about are how many kids are in the classrooms of the state, how many people do we have in the unemployment lines and how many seniors are not getting their prescription drug medications. Those are the problems I try to solve and as long as I get those solved, I feel pretty good at the end of the day."

With the lottery defeat and the budget crisis, Easley's approval rating has slipped.

In a recent Mason-Dixon poll, only 40 percent of those polled give Easley high marks while 56 percent dissapove of the way he's handling the job. Four percent were undecided.

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David Crabtree, Reporter
Jay Jennings, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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