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Some Democrats Not Pleased With Easley's Budget

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RALEIGH, N.C. — With nearly $1 billion in new spending and millions of dollars in higher taxes, it is not surprising Republicans are critical of Gov. Mike Easley's budget plan. However, the criticism is coming across party lines from Democrats as well.

When it comes to the extra half-cent sales tax that was supposed to expire this summer, Easley said the state cannot live without it.

"We are unable to reduce the sales tax that I wanted to cut this year," Easley said.

Easley also wants to raise taxes on everything from cigarettes to candy to satellite TV. But there is one tax he would lower -- the income tax on families earning more than $200,000 a year. Many members of the Democratic Party are questioning his approach.

"When you look at the high, you got to look at the low end, too," said Senate leader Marc Basnight.

Basnight believes it will be hard for lawmakers to cut taxes for the rich, while ignoring the working class.

"I think you have to look at both of those. You cannot just quickly say, 'We're going to the top and leaving the bottom out,'" he said.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth, defends Easley's proposal to cut the top rate, but she questions the other tax increases.

"We will be looking very carefully at efficiencies and ways we can reduce our spending, so that we don't have to continue to keep these taxes on the table," she said.

Others claim there is no way around it because the state needs all the tax revenue it can get.

"We need more water and sewer. We need more infrastructure. We need more roads. Either, you pay for them or you don't have them," said Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne.

Senate leaders, who are already starting to craft their budget, predict their budget will look a lot different than Easley's budget.


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