Ag Dept. submits short list for chopping block

March 25, 2011 3:45:21 PM PDT
It's getting down to crunch time for state government agencies to decide what will stay and what will go in the budget.

Specific programs are starting to be talked about and some of those, which for months, have feared the worst, are even more worried now.

"We have trimmed, we have trimmed, we have trimmed," said Brian Long, Department of Agriculture spokesperson.

Long says the legislature told the department to find 10 percent in cuts, but he says there are no more edges to trim. The Agriculture Department sent a short list to lawmakers.

On the chopping block, Animal Welfare and Meat and Poultry Inspection.

"We wanted to show them that if you're talking about cutting 10 percent more from our budget, it's not going to mean trimming around the edges anymore," Long said.

"We are now starting to see what it means when the state goes down this road of cutting taxes at a time of budget shortfall, which is what the legislature is pursuing right now," said Rob Schofield, NC Policy Watch.

Schofield, who works for left-leaning NC Policy Watch, says most state agencies will be in the same boat. Some Justice and Public Safety programs also are on the chopping block.

"We're starting to cut the meat, the bone," Schofield said. "No more waste, fat. We're cutting essential services."

Schofield and others on the left say the way around the problem is simple -- taxes.

"Just leave taxes where they are because if you leave them where they are, you could actually preserve the lion's share of what we have," Schofield said.

Republicans have been stalwart, opposing both new taxes and any extension of the temporary sales tax hike. That means many of the cuts that people fear will become cuts that people feel.

"If they're not part of the core function of government, things that government has to do, we really have to look seriously at whether we can afford to have them," said Mitch Kokai, John Locke Foundation.

Next week a list of specific programs to be cuts is expected.

Republicans have been sticking to their goal to wrap-up by June.

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