The State Legislature is getting ready to reconvene in Raleigh Monday night; tops on their agenda is hammering out a state budget.
We are two weeks into the new fiscal year, and the state still does not have a budget.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks: just how big is the budget shortfall?
Even Whiteville’s Dewey Hill, Vice Chair of the House Finance Committee, does not know. “Looks like we might have somewhere between a $4.1 and $4.7 billion shortfall. And that’s with a ‘b’.”
Hill says the figure does not include more than a billion dollars of federal stimulus money, because that funding is for one time only.
Despite the differences on how to do the math, the House and Senate have agreed how to spend the money. The problem is how to pay for everything.
Last week, Governor Bev Perdue sent legislators some ideas including combining cuts in some personal and business income taxes with increasing the sales tax a penny for one year, taxing a host of services and a more taxes on tobacco and alcohol.
Both Hill and Carolyn Justice say the problem goes back to the funding of unnecessary projects during the stronger economy of the last decade.
Now, they say, it’s time for many of those programs to be cut and for lawmakers to learn some lessons about spending that are coming a little too late.
“I thought everybody would sit and look at each other and say, ‘oh, my gosh, the party’s over, it’s time to reinvent North Carolina, it’s time to reinvent the way we do a budget,’ but we didn’t do that,” Justice said.
Representative Dewey Hill says the negotiations about revenue will begin again tonight.
He says lawmakers could have a budget by the end of the weekend, but he also says the state will need another temporary spending measure after Wednesday until the budget is done.
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