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Perdue's last budget relies on sales tax increase to boost education

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RALEIGH -- Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's final budget proposal relies heavily on a higher sales tax she wants to restore public school funding cuts from recent years and to expand other initiatives.

Perdue on Thursday released a $20.9 billion budget proposal for 2012-13 that adjusts the second year of a two-year budget the Legislature approved last year over her veto. As with all her budget proposals, education was her number one priority.

“Good schools are the foundation for a strong economy. You all understand that,” said Perdue in a press conference.

The governor's proposal includes a three-quarter-cent sales tax increase that would generate $760 million in additional funds next year. A big chunk of that money would help eliminate mandated cuts for local school districts that are projected to reach $500 million.

Republican leaders at the General Assembly say they would not support a higher sales tax, tossing aside the proposal on Wednesday before it was even presented.

“It is not the solution that this General Assembly will look to,” said Sen. President Pro-tem Phil Berger on Wednesday.

“Dead on arrival when it gets there. I was surprised by that comment quite frankly. That says to me that they had an opinion of a budget before they even saw it,” said Perdue on Thursday.

Perdue said she believes she has some important proposals in her plan beyond sales tax; including proposals to create jobs through tax incentives for small businesses and help military families with tuition assistance programs and hiring programs for post 9/11 vets.

For their part, Republicans aren't budging. Speaker Thom Tillis said Perdue is not thinking long term on how to fix some of North Carolina's problems. In a statement he said: It appears that Gov. Perdue is making fiscal decisions based on political expediency rather than a desire to work together to solve North Carolina’s financial problems.

Republican lawmakers will get a chance to present their proposals when they return to Raleigh next week.

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