The Republican-backed budget moving forward in the legislature cuts hundreds of millions from the governor's proposal for K-12 education, likely eliminating thousands of teaching jobs and removing teaching assistants from second- and third-grade classrooms.
It dismantles much of the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources and slices inspector jobs as the department is remade into a more business-friendly entity.
It avoids continuation of a temporary penny sales tax on the books and generates about $100 million in new revenue by increasing a number of fees, mostly within the state's court system. It would also let public schools charge up to $75 for driver education courses currently offered for free, charge people more to get a GED and implement new ferry tolls in the Outer Banks.
The budget calls for a $10-per-credit-hour increase in community college tuition and would likely trigger university tuition increases, as well.
The new budget doesn't assume the 2 percent cut in the corporate income tax rate that Gov. Bev Perdue included in her budget. Instead it sets aside $230 million for an as-yet-unreleased package of tax cuts.
Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said the package will "relate to job creation, most likely tax relief for small businesses, maybe some for corporate filers." He has also said it might include an income tax rate cut for personal filers.
This budget plan, generated by the Republican majority in the House, will likely be put to a vote this week. Then it moves to the Senate. After some changes there, it will go to Perdue, a Democrat who has given every indication that she will veto it without major concessions.
Already the governor has vetoed several GOP initiatives, and her relationship with the Republicans who won majorities in the House and the Senate in November is tense. Last week, Perdue said the House budget would "cause generational damage to the fabric of the state" and would "throw out the investments that have been made in every generation in public schools."
The primary disagreement is over the temporary sales tax, which would bring in more than $800 million a year if three-fourths of it is kept in place. That's roughly the amount Republicans want to cut beyond Perdue's budget proposal.
Broadly, the House proposed the following changes to Perdue's budget:
•About $400 million less for K-12 education.
•About $217 million less for the university system and $25 million less for community colleges.
•$250 million less for health and human services.
•$122 million more for courts, law enforcement and prisons. But this increase is largely due to an accounting change that moves the highway patrol out of the state's highway fund and into the general fund.
•A slew of changes in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. That includes 200 fewer jobs and a requirement that regional permitting offices justify their existence or face elimination in 2012.
•$10 million, instead of the current $100 million, for the state's clean water management trust fund.
•Significantly higher investments in pension and retirement funds.
•Total general fund spending of $19.3 billion, versus the governor's proposal of $19.9 billion. The actual difference is about $200 million more than that, though, because of the accounting shift for the highway patrol.
These cuts are on top of what Perdue had already recommended. For example: In K-12 schools, the governor had proposed cutting $350 million from the Department of Public Instructions initial "continuation" request for the year.
Just how many teaching jobs these cuts would eliminate is not clear, because those decisions are made by local systems after they find out how much state money they're getting. But Democrats, who are railing against the House budget, put the number at 3,700 teacher jobs and more than 11,000 teaching assistants.
Republicans dispute that, saying most of the teaching jobs lost will be from normal turnover — people who leave the profession and are not replaced. It's also difficult to say how many regular state jobs would be shed, because many of the biggest cuts would be implemented by department heads after a budget passes.
The teaching-assistant jobs would come out of the second and third grades, with the House budget specifically protecting the positions in kindergarten and first grade. Perdue has said she wants assistants in classrooms up to the third grade, and that's a primary reason she wants to keep three-quarters of the temporary penny tax in place.
She would also protect the state's early education programs for poor families, More at Four and Smart Start, which Republicans have targeted for cuts. The House would cut more textbook money than Perdue would but would spend more to replace buses and pay bus drivers.
The House would also pull funding for Planned Parenthood, specifically prohibiting any state funding from going to the abortion, contraception and women's health education group. The ban lists Planned Parenthood by name and is printed in all capital letters.
Perdue and the legislature seem far apart on the budget and will need to find a middle ground by the start of the new fiscal year, July 1.
Otherwise the state would face a shutdown without a budget. Republicans are also likely to target more conservative House Democrats in an effort to pass a budget over the governor's expected veto. The GOP has a veto-proof majority in the Senate but would need to peel off four Democrats to overturn a veto in the House.
Local Republican representatives said they support the House budget, preferring cuts — even painful ones — to a tax increase or continuation of the penny tax.
"We're not going to put people back to work raising taxes," said state Rep. Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth and the House speaker pro tem.
But Folwell acknowledged that the House budget would put many state employees out of work.
"The job creation of this state has to come from private industry, and not from government," he said.