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Easley Says He'll Veto Proposed Budget

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State government may be headed for a partial shutdown this week.

The House and Senate voted on a budget in the last days of the fiscal year. But Gov. Mike Easley says he'll veto that proposal if it crosses his desk.

The Governor voiced his disapproval Saturday just as House and Senate members began the approval process for the two-year, $15 billion budget.

"This budget is not balanced," Easley said. "This budget is not real. This budget insults the integrity of the people of North Carolina. I will veto this budget."

Easley said budget writers are banking on an unrealistic rate of revenue growth, leaving the budget $420 million out of balance.

"So if we can't get the taxes," he'll said, "we'll just pretend like we're going to get more money in."

House and Senate members argued that the budget is responsible and balanced. They said they will proceed right along in spite of the Governor's disapproval.

"The General Assembly only appropriates money; the governor spends it," said House Co-Speaker Richard Morgan, R-Moore. "No budget becomes unbalanced when revenues meet their projections."

Easley offered solutions to the impasse like delaying child tax credits and the marriage penalty tax cut. He wants the House to pass a continuing resolution, giving them two more days to fix the problems.

Nevertheless, legislators may be headed for their own solution -- a statement that they hold the real budget power, not the Governor.

"His first two budgets included lottery proceeds that were a fantasy," Sen. Patrick Ballantine, R-New Hanover, said of Easley. This governor has never proposed a balanced budget. His rationale changes every day. He is like the boy who cried wolf."

All eyes are on Tuesday, when the current fiscal year ends. If no budget plan is in place, there could be a partial government shutdown. Then both sides would be forced to go back to the drawing board.

House members must vote on the Budget deal Sunday and Monday. The Senate will vote on Monday.

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