Local News

Senate Tries New Tack To Advance Budget

Posted September 20, 2001 6:17 a.m. EDT

— The Senate was geared to debate a billion-dollar tax increase Thursday which would eventually plug the last hole in the $14 billion state budget. But in an effort to hurry things along, senate leaders are considering a maneuver that would bypass a separate floor vote on taxes.

Legislative leaders argue that bypassing a floor vote on tax increases could save two days by simply rolling the tax package into the final budget compromise.

"Everybody knows where they stand for and against. If you want to keep debating for another month you can do that, or you can put it on the floor for a vote up or down." Sen. Marc Basnight, (D) Dare County.

The Senate version of the tax plan would raise the state sales tax one half-cent beginning next month. After two years, the statewide one-half cent will be dropped. Counties will then have the option of raising local sales taxes one half-cent. Long distance telephone calls and satellite television would see tax increases.

The Senate's top Republican, Sen. Pat Ballentine of New Hanover County, wants a change to vote against raising taxes without voting against the budget.

"This is the largest tax increase in America," said Ballentine.

On the House side, State Representative Toby Fitch, (D) Wilson County, is still holding out for tax revenue for counties.

"I think that local people deserve to have the opportunity to know that here is a continuing revenue source. Otherwise, it becomes a crap shoot, "Fitch said.

Lawmakers hope to have a budget deal signed, sealed and delivered by the end of this week.