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Wed May 10, 2006
Lawmakers Kick Off "Short Session"
By Catherine M. Welch
Raleigh, NC – A slate of bills greeted members of the House back to Raleigh as the short session kicked off at around noon. And on this first day many lawmakers from the region focused on the word short in this session's moniker.
After a ceremony by the North Carolina Highway Patrol honor guard, members of the House got down to business introducing more than a dozen new bills, including ones to cut the gas tax, raise the state minimum wage and eliminate the new requirement of mandatory eye exams for kindergartners.
And while it was the first day of the session, many area lawmakers echoed Columbus County Democrat Dewey Hill's desire to, in pop culture terms, git er done.
Get up here to do our work fast, and go home. You know a lot of people in my area, I go home and people say I'm sure glad to see you at home I think it's because I'm not in Raleigh they know that I can do no damage at home. I would hope we can attend to the state's business within a short period of time, by July 1 July 15th leave town.
Raises for Teachers and State Workers
Number cruncers from the general assembly's Fiscal Research Division rolled out their budget overview.
Fiscal researchers told lawmakers that a good chunk the surplus is from non-recurring funds, and that the state's fiscal health hinges on health care costs, taxes set to expire, and whatever lawmakers spend this session.
One bill introduced yesterday calls for giving state employees and teachers a 7% raise.
New Hanover County Democrat Thomas Wright says the size of the raise depends on what's available.
Five percent seems a lot more realistic but certainly if we can squeeze seven out you know, our most valuable resource is the state employees that we have in this state and they've been short changed for quite a few years because we didn't have the availability.
Fiscal researchers calculated it would cost nearly two-million dollars for each percent lawmakers increased state worker and teacher salaries.
Governor Mike Easley would like to give teachers an 8% raise, boost funding for mental health, and cap the gas tax.
Brunswick County Republican Bonner Stiller says he'd like to see a little spending and a little saving.
So you know, do you spend the money or do you do what you would hopefully do at home: which is spend some; make some home improvements; put some money in a savings account for the children and the necessary things of life. That's what I think the state should do.
The general assembly's fiscal research office warned lawmakers that while this is the healthiest bottom line since the last 90's, a large part of it is made up of non-recurring revenue.