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N.C. Economy Looks Good, Education Will Benefit

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RALEIGH — Governor Hunt proposes a $12.8 billion budget for the next fiscal year, with an emphasis on children and education. Jobs and economic development would get a 13 per cent increase while state employee pay raises and children's causes would take over 6.5 percent each. But more than half of that budget would be earmarked for education.

State Budget Officer Marvin Dorman paints a rosy picture of North Carolina's economy. Taxes will bring in considerably more than forecast. Revenues are eight per cent more than last year, and the governor says that would allow him to join lawmakers in the push to do away with an unpopular tax.

"I intend to take one penny off the food tax July first 1999 if revenues allow," said Hunt. "And we'll know that in a day or two, and the final penny by July 1, 2000."

Hunt says education and the Smart Start program are his top priorities.

"This budget requests $57 million to get Smart Start underway in the remaining 45 counties where children aren't getting the benefit of Smart Start," said Hunt.

Hunt says state employees would get a five per cent pay increase; teachers would get more.

"The budget includes an average teacher pay raise of 6.5 % with much of it pegged to performance," Hunt said. "Now all told, this budget proposes more than $700 million, 50 per cent of the available funds, for education, including hiring more than 500 teachers, teacher assistants, assistant principals and other school support."

The Governor also announced a new program to help create jobs in inner city neighborhoods and wants money to recruit jobs to depressed rural areas. Economic and industrial development recruiting at national and international levels would be strenghtened.


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