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Easley Expects Smooth Sailing In Legislative Session

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A sales tax cut, changes in how state lottery proceeds are distributed, and teacher and state employee raises all have to be approved by state lawmakers. Because of the $2 billion surplus, they appear ready to spend the money.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mike Easley told WRAL he's confident the legislature will give him what he wants.

It's the sixth budget from Easley, and the first with money to spare. Even so, he urges lawmakers to be cautious.

"The problem is they all have different projects, and there's never enough money to satisfy the wish list," said Easley.

Those wishes include new roads and bridges, new hospitals for the mentally ill, and Easley's own list, which features a 4 percent raise for state employees, and 8 percent for teachers.

"(The teacher raise) is non-negotiable for me, and I think it's non-negotiable for the General Assembly," said Easley.

The governor wants the gas tax capped, saying no one ever believed prices would be this high when the formula was written in 1989. He's also frustrated Washington hasn't acted to raise the minimum wage.

A move is underway to abolish a mandate for eye exams for children. The program has been under fire because House Speaker Jim Black, who's an optometrist, helped push it through.

"Given the fact they're investigating the people that provide that service, just repeal it and start over ... do away with it," said Easley. "I think that's a good idea."

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