Vocal protesters greet returning state lawmakers

Posted May 16, 2012 12:36 p.m. EDT
Updated May 16, 2012 1:16 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina lawmakers returning to Raleigh Wednesday morning for a budget-adjustment work session were greeted by a loud group of protesters directly in front of the Legislative Building on West Jones Street. 

Sporting pots and pans, protesters from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations did their best to cook up some noise to greet returning lawmakers. 

The General Assembly's main job for the roughly six-week "short session" is to change parts of the second year of the two-year budget approved last year.

Republicans, who took control of the Legislature after the 2010 elections, insist the final product of House and Senate negotiators won't include the higher temporary sales tax that Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue proposed last week.

If neither Republicans nor Perdue blink on the issue of taxes, there's a good chance of a showdown similar to last year, when Perdue vetoed the budget bill. 

According to AFL-CIO member MaryBe McMillan, the group protested Wednesday in attempt to bring issues like voting rights, unemployment benefits, healthcare, education and the budget to light. 

"We don't think there should be a cuts-only approach to this budget," McMillan said. "We need to make sure that those who can pay their fair share do. That means the very wealthy 1 percent and corporations."

Conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity also protested Wednesday, with protesters holding billboards and wearing earplugs.

"We want lawmakers to drown out the calls from the left to constantly raise taxes," said Dallas Woodhouse. "Really, what these people want is a $1 billion tax increase. They want the sales tax increase. They have an insatiable appetite for taxpayer money."

McMillan said the earplugs were fitting because she said the General Assembly has spent too much time not listening to its consituents.