An $18.9 billion state spending plan is headed to Gov. Mike Easley on Thursday after the General Assembly gave final approval to a budget that cuts some taxes, spends more on education and sets aside money for the next crisis.
In approving the budget bill for the second time in as many days, the House voted 82-31 and the Senate 31-15 to spend nearly 10 percent more than last year, although more than $560 million of the $1.7 billion increase is set aside in reserve.
The rest goes toward large state employee and teacher raises, $206 million in pay-as-you-go construction and $163 million for more than 27,000 new students expected this fall.
The Democratic-led Legislature also used more than $160 million to begin reducing a pair of "temporary" tax increases first approved in 2001 and extended twice.
A huge budget surplus for the previous fiscal year -- the largest as a percentage of the budget in at least 35 years -- gave budget-writers the confidence to begin phasing out a half-penny increase in the sales tax and a 0.5 percent increase in the individual income tax.
Easley has not said yet whether he will sign the bill into law, but he praised the budget when it emerged from final negotiations late last week, especially its education programs.
I'm sure Easley did praise it since it's 1 10% growth in the size of our large bloated state government.