Davis: 2010 budget looks better
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 27, 2010 1:46 PM
State Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, talks about the upcoming legislative session at the Goldsboro Rotary Club meeting Tuesday.
Cautious optimism was the theme for state Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, Tuesday as he spoke to the Goldsboro Rotary Club. Optimistic, he said, because the economy is beginning to recover, but cautious because the state isn't out of the woods yet.
"We knew things we tough last year," Davis said, adding that things are only beginning to get better. "These are tough times. There are a lot of people out there who are hurting. Without a doubt, the economy is our top priority and it is right now what we have to give our attention to."
Last year, Davis explained, the state faced a $4.6 billion shortfall in the budget, which it solved with the help of $1.4 billion in federal stimulus dollars, $1.8 billion in cuts and $9.9 million in increased revenue.
"That was a big hole to fill," he said. "We saw the General Assembly tug and tussle and deal with some very tough decisions. That was one of the largest cuts to government spending we've ever made."
Looking ahead to the start of the short session in May, however, Davis does not believe the state will be in those same kinds of dire straits.
In November, he said, the state was looking at a $90 million budget shortfall. But by the end of January, he continued, that shortfall had been eliminated by the influx of some one-time revenue funds, the receipt of which had been underestimated in the budget. However, he acknowledged, were it not for those extra funds the shortfall would be up to about $240 million.
"We're still operating at a loss," Davis said.
Also playing into how those final numbers come out, he continued, is whether Medicaid, which currently is fluctuating, comes in at, below or above its budgeted amount.
But, he added, the real key is whether or not the state's economy continues to improve.
"We're monitoring the economic situation," Davis said.
And as they do, he also said that a study committee has been looking for ways to continue to cut fat out of the budget, while finding opportunities for efficiencies.
"That is taking place," he said. "As we continue to monitor the economic situation we need to be looking at the value of programs to see if they're cost effective, and to see if there are ways of doing things more efficiently, but I think we can't lose sight that we cut $1.8 billion last year."
But the economy isn't the only priority Davis had for Wayne County. Number one on his list -- especially after being recently appointed to the North Carolina Commission on Military Affairs -- is BRAC and the need to continue protecting Wayne County and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base from a future base realignment and closure commission. Next up is Cherry Hospital, which Davis said was moving along "on schedule." Also on the list is investment in dropout prevention efforts, investment in Wayne Community College's Military Business Center and the college's other programs, as well as an increased investment in small businesses. He also mentioned the possibility of tax reform this year, but declined to take a position on the issue until the committee working on the modernization of the tax code provides an actual set of proposals.