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State Budget Process Takes Another Step Forward

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RALEIGH — State lawmakers have their sights on finishing the state budget. The spending plan, which is three months overdue, relies on tax increases and major cuts in spending.

House budget co-chair Ruth Easterling, D-Mecklenburg County, has put her perspective on a budget process that has taken eight months.

"I've had this speech written since the last week in June. And the way I started this speech was 'this day has finally arrived after days of work.' And then I changed it in July to 'after weeks of work,' and today I'm changing it to 'after months of work.' This day has finally arrived,"Easterling said.

The tax plan raises the sales tax a half-cent for two years. Taxes will increase on satellite television and phone calls, luxury cars, and a higher income tax for the wealthy is also included. State workers get a $625 flat raise, and teachers receive a raise of almost 3 percent.

The plan, crafted by Democrats, does not include the support of the Republicans, who oppose a tax increase.

"It's going to be a very close vote. I believe that obviously there are more Democrats than Republicans, but we are convinced that our position is a correct position, and we have been fighting for a long time to keep taxes off the backs of the people of our state, particularly in this environment. What the vote will be I don't know," said Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston County.

The House Democrats have a slim 4-vote majority, but that could change. The House and the Senate will vote on the budget this afternoon. Another vote will be required tomorrow. If approved, it coudl go to Gov. Mike Easley to be signed into law by late Friday.


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