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Legislative offices' makeover costing thousands

January 21, 2011 9:15:51 PM PST
In an impossible budget year the state is spending tens of thousands of dollars on makeovers to a few legislative offices.It's just a drop in the overall budget bucket, but with a budget gap of $3.5 billion many are wondering if this is the right year to do it.

The money came out of a repair fund, which is money set aside for updating purposes. But the update is costing $34,000, which could almost pay for a new teacher, social worker, or police officer position. In this case, it paid for new carpet, wallpaper, and a few renovations.

Senator Marc Basnight's Chief of Staff Amy Fulk says it wasn't until pictures were taken off the wall in his office that they noticed just how bad it had gotten.

"What we thought was grey for many years turned out to be blue," Fulk said.

So Basnight, a Democrat, offered an olive branch to the Republican moving into his office.

"Senator Basnight, right after the election, had me call Senator Berger and offer to replace the wallpaper before session started so he could move in without a hitch," Fulk said.

But it wasn't just Basnight's office and it wasn't just wallpaper.

In all, three offices got a makeover --new wallpaper, new carpet. And in the other legislative building, walls are being moved around to make more space for lawmakers.

To some, including Jeff Shaw with the left leaning NC Justice Center, it's actually a good sign.

"Certainly if we can find money for this, we can find money for things like public education, roads that keep our economy moving and jobs in North Carolina," Shaw said.

But others say in a year when lay-offs are all but inevitable, new carpets and new wallpaper could and should have waited.

Among those who work in the legislative building, many are unapologetic about the expense - challenging would-be critics to walk around and look at the conditions in which they work.

Fulk says what was done wasn't something that was wanted; it was something that was needed.

"The General Assembly took significant budget cuts just like every other agency has, but we are keeping up our facility assets where we need to," she said.

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