Perdue committed to keep education untouched?

RALEIGH The governor said last week that education is her line in the sand, even though education makes up about 60 percent of the state budget.

"On my watch, the only line in the sand is that we will not cripple education," said Perdue last Thursday.

On Monday, she defended her statement, but wouldn't offer specifics.

"I have a line in the sand, though, about how far I'll go ... there are no lines in the sand in terms of what it means," Perdue said. "I know where my head is, I know where my heart is, I know what's important for this state from my perspective and I'm going to see how I can get there."

That's welcome news to State Superintendent of Schools June Atkinson, who says any cuts to education will almost certainly affect students.

"Last year, our public school budget was cut 15 percent. That's on top of another cut the previous year, so there are really very few places to go," Atkinson said.

But a report by the left-leaning North Carolina Budget and Tax Center paints a dire picture of what will happen if the governor treats education with kid gloves.

Even if it's cut by 10 percent, the report warns of disaster just about everywhere else.

"The entire rest of the budget would have to be cut by 27 percent to make up for holding the line on education if we were to take a cuts only approach," Edwin McLenaghan with the NC Budget and Tax Center said.

McLenaghan, who wrote the report, says the problem is big enough that the only answer is a tax hike. But that's something Republicans and Perdue are, so far, squarely against.

"The balanced approach at this time, I don't believe for anybody in the state, Dems, Reps, mom and dad around the kitchen table, includes taxes," Perdue said. "It's too early to talk about any revenue. You've got to decide what it is that you can cut that is not core to the mission."

Meanwhile, the report says even if every agency, including education was cut by 15 percent, there would still be a $1 billion shortfall.

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