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Commission Trying To Find Efficiencies In State Government

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A few dollars here and there may not seem like significant savings on a $15 billion state budget, but Gov. Mike Easley and legislative leaders are scraping up every dollar they can, anticipating another severe budget crisis.

State Auditor Ralph Campbell said he found $400 million in savings from cost overruns and construction delays in building programs at the University of North Carolina, community colleges and prisons. His audit alleges the state should have retained oversight of these projects. Instead, lawmakers gave the authority to the institutions.

It was one of the topics discussed as a study commission wrapped up its study of how to turn efficiencies into tax-dollar savings.

"There is enough small stuff that adds up to big stuff," said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank.

"I know there are those who say we've cut and we've cut. We can't cut anymore, but we are going to have to do something we may need to prioritize what state government is all about," said Rep. Wilma Sherrill, R-Buncombe.

Dana Cope, of the State Employees Association, said he is worried that more state employee layoffs are likely because lawmakers cannot agree on what is prudent.

"In last year's budget, they appropriated some money for a tree museum, and we have to question whether that is necessary in these tight budget times," he said.

The House study commission on state government efficiency has prepared its recommendations for the incoming members.

Easley chairs a separate commission on savings in running state government.

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