Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Senate moving fast to give Gov more budget power

Sen. Phil Berger, president pro tem of the state Senate, has his colleagues in the Republican majority concentrating on state budget issues, beginning with a bill giving Gov. Bev Perdue more power to manage a budget expected to be about $3.7 billion short for the new fiscal year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is in session this morning working on the Balanced Budget Act granting Perdue one-time authority to cut spending the remainder of this year. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Pete Brunstetter (R-Forsyth), Neal Hunt (R-Wake), and Richard Stevens (R-Wake).  The aim is to cut spending between now and June 30 by another $400 million. Perdue had already cut the budget significantly, but she evidently had gone as far as her budget powers allowed.

Berger's office released a statement quoting Berger as saying, “We are pleased that the governor requested additional powers to join us in our efforts to rein-in out of control spending and get our state’s fiscal house in order. We are giving Gov. Perdue these emergency powers in good faith and trust that she will continue to work with us in a bipartisan manner to help solve our state’s budget problems.”

Berger's official also announced a joint Finance Committee meeting Wednesday to "review the state’s existing tax structure, revenue forecast and economic climate."

Mecklenburg Sen. Bob Rucho is co-chairman of that committee, and in the release he said, the early joint session will help members "take on the challenge of reforming North Carolina’s tax system.  This will help stimulate the economy, grow small business and create new jobs so that we can put the people of North Carolina back to work.”

The Senate  and House are wise to put the focus quickly on the budget, the state's economy and doing what it can to attract jobs, and so far Speaker Thom Tillis, Berger and Perdue have cooperated on how to approach the shortfall -- ad encouraging sign after the first couple of days when other issues have gotten in the way of job one.  I expect the legislature and the governor will have plenty of opportunities to fall out later on -- possibly over keeping temporary taxes that would help avoid teacher layoffs. We'll see.

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