Senate OKs budget, funding cuts

The NC Senate voted along party lines tonight to give Gov. Perdue more budget-cutting power, but also to take away some of her economic development funding.

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Laura Leslie

The state Senate has given final approval to S13, the “Balanced Budget Act of 2011,” by a party-line 31-16 vote (three Dems were out). The measure would give Gov. Bev Perdue more power to cut the current year's budget, but it also includes big cuts to the bottom lines of some 20 state funds supporting everything from aquariums to economic development.

An amendment introduced tonight by bill sponsor Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, makes a few changes in the bill. Most notably, it erases a proposed $4.7 million cut to the state’s Cancer Research Fund. Stevens said he'd been told those funds were unencumbered, but found out Thursday they were not.

Tonight’s debate wasn’t as contentious as last Thursday’s. Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, said the bill is "sending precisely the wrong message" about the state’s commitment to economic development, adding that cutting the Golden LEAF, One N.C. Fund, and JDIG accounts could mean less private capital, too. Economic development money is often used to lure private sector investment. Stein said one $10 million grant from Golden LEAF secured $900 million in private money.

Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, was quick to point out that, at least in his district, those grants don’t seem to be working. “If we’re doing such a great job on economic development in N.C., the unemployment rate should going down, right?” Apodaca asked. “But two weeks ago, it went up.”

The bill was sent to the House by “special messenger” (the legislative equivalent of express mail) and has already been read in and sent to Appropriations. It’s expected to get at least a committee hearing this week.

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