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The Daily Tar Heel

N.C. Legislature Likely to Consider Budget Cuts to Ease Deficit

Rep. David Redwine, D-Brunswick, co-chairman of the N.C. House Appropriations Committee, said the N.C. General Assembly might need to cut the budgets for some programs and eliminate others to raise money. But Redwine could not specify how the fiscal hole will be filled.

He said he suggested that both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees meet before the legislature's scheduled day to convene, May 28.

"The Appropriations Committee might want to go in early and prepare a plan for when the General Assembly comes back in late May," Redwine said.

Danny Lineberry, spokesman for House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, said Black might reconvene the Appropriations Committee early but that he has yet to mention any specific dates. "It's under consideration, but there's been no discussion," he said. "There has been no timetable set."

Sen. Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said it is up to Gov. Mike Easley to balance the budget.

"The governor is elected to do it himself, but I am surprised that he hasn't called an emergency session of the (General Assembly)," Forrester said.

He said there are several ways the state can raise money, including not returning money to municipalities, as well as taking money from the Hurricane Floyd relief funds and tobacco settlement funds.

He added he does not think the legislature will raise taxes.

Rep. Ruth Easterling, D-Mecklenburg, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the legislature will be forced to reduce spending but will not be able to do anything official until May.

Easterling said once legislators see actual numbers, they will be able to develop a strategy to help solve the budget problem. "All of us are aware of the dire situation we are in, and we are doing all we can to alleviate it," she said.

UNC political science Professor Thad Beyle said he expects the General Assembly to do whatever possible to avoid raising taxes to increase revenue because of upcoming elections.

"They won't want to raise taxes because they're all running for re-election," he said.

"But a tax increase will probably be proposed by some Democrat and then the Republicans will take it and beat them over their heads with it."

Beyle said several state programs are already facing cuts and added that the budget burden has been forced on municipalities.

He also said cuts will continue and all the state's citizens will feel their repercussions. "Everybody's going to be hurt by this because the economy is only going to get worse."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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