Setting the stage

In case you are caught up in the celebration of a Republican majority in Raleigh over the last three months, here is a nice reality check as we approach the noon swearing in of Berger and Tillis:

Whoever was in charge of the chamber expected a difficult job this year closing a budget gap for the third straight year, the result of tax collections slow to rebound in the recovery from a recession that keeps the state unemployment rate close to 10 percent.

The projected shortfall for the year starting July 1 is $3.7 billion — nearly 20 percent of the current year’s budget and a size that members of both parties and Perdue have said will probably lead to state employee or teacher job layoffs and cuts to services. Federal stimulus money has dried up and Republican lawmakers pledged in the fall campaign not to extend a pair of temporary tax increases approved by the Democratic-led Legislature and Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2009.

"We intend to keep the promise that the Democrats made two years ago when they said that they were temporary taxes," Berger said earlier this week.

Perdue said Tuesday she’s unsure if her budget proposal to the Legislature will extend or sunset the taxes. But in the new reality at the Legislative Building, the views of a Democratic governor matter less. Republicans are within four votes of having the luxury to send veto-proof legislation to Perdue’s desk.

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