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State Lawmakers Expected To Release Budget Details Monday

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The General Assembly's budget agreement is expected to be unveiled Monday.

State lawmakers will be in session at 7 p.m. At that point, the budget deal, that was agreed on Friday, will be read into session and become public. They will discuss the plan and vote on it in the upcoming days.

House and Senate negotiators settled on the two-year spending plan -- five weeks overdue -- after they compromised on three of the budget's biggest sticking points: the state cigarette tax, state employee pay raises and the lottery.

The new fiscal year started July 1, and lawmakers passed three temporary measures to keep the government operating until a new budget could be finalized.

Late last week, lawmakers reached a compromise on how to spend revenues on education if the Senate passes a lottery bill. Both House and Senate leaders agreed that 50 percent would go to lowering class size, 40 percent would go to school construction, and 10 percent would pay for college scholarships.

Leaders also agreed to increase the cigarette tax to 30 cents, starting Sept. 1, and then increase it by 5 cents more by July 2006.

The budget also includes a proposed 2 percent pay raise or $850 -- whichever is greater -- for state employees, as well as an additional week of vacation. Teachers also would get a 2.4 percent raise.

Another issue that held up the budget -- whether the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University should be able to set their own tuition -- was taken off the table before a meeting last Thursday night.

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