Local News

Democrats Defend Proposed Spending in State Budget

Posted May 1, 2007 5:15 p.m. EDT
Updated May 1, 2007 6:19 p.m. EDT

— Extra tax revenues gave state Democratic leaders an extra $260 million to work with in next year’s budget, but lawmakers claim they're not going to go wild with spending, despite a long list of pet projects.

“The way the committees were spending money, we were about to go in the hole again, but this will help us out a little bit,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.

Republicans quickly called for Democrats to cut the perceived pork and to use the extra money to end sales and upper-income tax hikes passed in the past. They also want the Medicaid burden lifted from counties.

“If we get all that additional revenue, this is the time to take care of that problem permanently,” said House Minority Leader Paul Stam of Wake County.

Democratic leaders said they plan to keep the sales and upper-income tax hikes in place next fiscal year. They said they also expect to cut $50 million from county Medicaid costs, which was far less than local leaders had hoped.

Realtors hoping to head off a proposed land-transfer tax also chimed in.

“This report validates what we've been saying all along,” said Tim Kent with the North Carolina Association of Realtors. “North Carolina does not have a revenue problem.”

Those representing local government argue its one-time money that won't go to them.

“This will not solve all our problems,” said Ellis Hankins with the League of Municipalities. “Sometimes we do get too worked up about that.”

Democratic leaders tried to downplay the legislative wish list leaked to the media.

“A lot that was on that list has been taken off that list — even that with a twinge of what looked like pork,” Michaux said.

Michaux disputed claims that budget deals were done in private. He said fellow lawmakers will get a chance to weigh in, if they hurry.

“Everybody is going to have an opportunity to view the budget. They'll have a least a day,” he said.

Lawmakers said they hope to roll out the final House budget plan later this week.