Local News

Senate stimulus bill leaves N.C. leaders in limbo

Posted February 9, 2009 6:16 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

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— The U.S. Senate on Monday lined up to advance the $827 billion economic stimulus legislation backed by the White House, and Democratic leaders vowed to deliver a bill to President Barack Obama's desk within days.

Still, key lawmakers braced for a difficult round of further negotiations needed to produce a final House-Senate compromise.

The two versions of the legislation are relatively close in size – the House package is $8 billion less than the Senate's – and are similar in many respects.

The Senate bill, however, cuts $40 billion from aid for state governments, and that leaves North Carolina lawmakers, who were expecting an estimated $16 billion, in a state of limbo.

"We've got to have that $40 billion," Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said Monday. "Even $40 billion is not enough. We have states that are really bleeding."

"The intention was that we would start an infrastructure (program) with roads, bridges, highways, broadband, building of schools, building of new projects and a new grid system," Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., said. "Those things have taken a back seat to the overall (goal) of we have to bailout each state."

Several Republicans in the state House of Representatives say they are not looking for a bailout.

"What is the better way to go would be to consolidate programs, to really scrub our budget and see where the efficiencies are to get the waste out of our budget, and take this opportunity to make government truly more efficient in North Carolina," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

In a statement late Monday, Gov. Bev Perdue's office called the Senate's vote "important to America."

She went on to cite reservations about the Senate's version, but called the stimulus "a critical step toward addressing North Carolina's fiscal emergency. Therefore, despite some concerns, we urge both our senators to vote 'yes.'"