House proposal adds $1.2 billion in state spending

By: - June 20, 2005 5:34 am

Jacksonville News

BARRY SMITH View stories by reporter

The state House of Representatives budget bill approved this past week includes a 25 cent-per-pack increase on cigarettes. If the new tax is approved, smokers would pay the higher rate beginning next month. The increase would bring the per-pack cigarette tax rate to 30 cents.

The proposed increase in the House bill is less than the 35 cent-per-pack increase called for in the Senate budget.

Billion-dollar increase

The $17.1 billion budget approved by the House is an increase of $1.2 billion over the current year’s budget. The budget was approved on a 62-58 largely party-line vote. One Democrat joined the 57 Republicans in voting against the bill.

The House budget restores money for Medicaid increases and gives most state employees a $1,085 flat pay raise.

Community college faculty would receive an additional 2-percent raise. Funding for the Global TransPark in Kinston would remain at $1.6 million a year.

Legislative leaders will point a committee of senators and representatives – called a conference committee – to try to work out a compromise between the two chambers’ versions of the budget.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Nothing personal

The age for riding a personal watercraft in North Carolina could soon be going up.

A bill, approved by the state House earlier this year and headed to the Senate floor, would raise the minimum age for operating such watercraft from 12 to 14.

It would also require teenagers who are 14 or 15 to either share the watercraft with an adult or have completed a safety education course.

By the numbers

A state lottery wasn’t included in the $17.1 billion budget passed by the House, but a lottery bill has passed that chamber, and implementation of a lottery has passed the Senate.

Now, lottery supporters in the House and the Senate, along with Gov. Mike Easley, will be charged with crafting a compromise lottery that can make it through both chambers and be acceptable to the governor.

Taking a toll

The state Senate has approved a bill that would expand from three to nine the number of toll roads or bridges that could be built in North Carolina.

One provision would allow the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet to be included as a toll project.

Earlier this year, the N.C. Turnpike Authority voted to proceed with toll projects in Gaston, New Hanover and Union counties, along with a turnpike project in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Barry Smith writes for Freedom Communications Inc.’s Raleigh bureau. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066