Don't Balance Budget With Stimulus Funds, Two Say
Two Moore County legislators agree that North Carolina should accept the economic stimulus money but should not use it to balance the state budget.
State Sen. Harris Blake and state Rep. Jamie Boles spoke out on the issue Saturday afternoon at the Moore County Republican county convention.
"It will be a disaster if we use any of the federal stimulus money to balance the state budget," Blake said.
"We do not need stimulus money to balance our budget," Boles said, adding that he agrees with Blake that such action would be disastrous.
In separate interviews after their comments, both Blake and Boles said that North Carolina should accept the federal stimulus funds designated for the state. They emphasized that the money should be applied to projects that will stimulate the economy, such as infrastructure improvements.
Improvements to highways and bridges are among the infrastructure needs mentioned.
What they do not want is for the state to forgo the discipline of making the sharp cuts required to balance the budget in the current critical economy. Both emphasized that the stimulus package should not be used to cover any portion of state operating funds.
One source of temptation, according to Blake, will be the huge cost of Medicaid, the program that provides medical assistance to low-income individuals. Medicaid is paid by the federal government and by states. Until this year, counties in North Carolina paid a portion of the cost, but under legislation passed three years ago, that arrangement ends this year, with all of the cost now in the hands of the state.
Blake opened his remarks with a grim report about the state revenue picture. He said that as of Friday, the state had a $1.2 billion budget shortfall and it would increase to $2.1 million within a matter of days. He predicted that by June 30, the shortfall would be somewhere between $3.5 billion and $4 billion.
Making matters worse, Blake said, is the fact that revenues for the 2008 budget are 16 percent lower than projected, and there is a massive shortfall in the state health plan.
Gov. Beverly Perdue, who presented her budget this week, has so far not proposed to use stimulus money to balance the budget. State law requires that North Carolina adopt a balanced budget.
"There's no way we can raise taxes," Blake said.
However, Blake said state leaders need ideas from their constituency.
"You have a tremendous impact on this state, and I challenge each of you," Blake said. "If you have ideas, contact Jamie or me."
Boles, who is serving his first term in the state House, said the state needs to get back to the basics of less government with emphasis on essential things, such as education. He said that it is also time for churches and communities to get back to the old practice of helping each other when times are tough.
The two legislators were invited to speak during a break in convention business, while the Credentials Committee was completing work on certification of delegates and alternates.
Blake, a Pinehurst businessman, represents District 22, which encompasses all of Moore and Harnett counties.
Boles' District 52 includes all of Moore County except one and a half precincts. He lives in Southern Pines and owns several funeral homes.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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