How bad is North Carolina's budget mess?

February 24, 2011 4:08:05 PM PST
There have been a lot of numbers swirling around lately as the General Assembly and Governor Beverly Perdue work to fix North Carolina's budget mess.

So how bad is it? Turns out the harder you look, the uglier it gets.

Republican leaders have put out spending targets for things like education, health, human services, and public safety. They add up to around $17.5 billion. That's $2.5 billion less than the governor proposed in her budget.

But that's not the whole story.

"That does not include money for a rainy day fund. That does not include money for reserve and repair and renovation, does not include money for retirement," said Sen. Harold Brubaker, (R) Asheboro.

Brubaker says Republicans are looking at spending about $1.5 billion less than the governor proposed, including some $700 million in education dollars, which Perdue didn't touch.

"The people of North Carolina elected us to take a look at everything across the board. No sacred cows. Period," said Brubaker.

That's no sacred cows except taxes, which are off the table.

"The way you spark the economy is looking at reducing taxes, not increasing taxes, reducing taxes," said Brubaker.

And because they won't be continuing the temporary sales tax, they'll have to find another $800 million or so in savings.

Looking over the spending targets, NC State professor Rick Kerney sees a storm brewing.

"You take any budget, take your paycheck and cut it by 20 percent. Man, that's a significant change in your quality of life and what you can afford or not afford," he explained.

But Republicans are unapologetic about the potential fallout.

"As I keep telling everybody of the whole and the problem, we didn't create it, but we're here to solve it," said Brubaker.

So exactly how bad is the problem? How big is the hole?

"You're looking at $2.4 to 3 billion," said Brubaker.

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