Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system, thanked members of the state House of Representatives for recommending $780 million in new taxes to help lessen deep cuts in education spending in the 2009-10 state budget. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Perdue, the revenue increases would restore about $75 million of the cuts that had previously been assigned to the 17-campus system.
In a statement released last Thursday, Bowles said he is “extremely grateful that House members made the difficult decision to recommend a modest revenue package,” but noted that he remained “gravely concerned” about the budget. He said the remaining $263 million in cuts proposed by the House would have “a severe and lasting impact on the quality of education our universities can offer our students.”
Bowles said the cuts would result in larger classes, less student advising and counseling, higher student/faculty ratios, lower retention and graduation rates, delayed classroom upgrades and laboratory renovations, fewer security personnel, reductions in library services and reductions in maintenance.
“Education is the key to North Carolina’s economic recovery,” Bowles said. “We therefore ask and encourage our legislative leaders to consider all reasonable options for further increasing state revenues.”
Under the House proposal, supported by Democrats and adopted on a nearly party-line vote, the state would raise revenue by increasing the sales tax by a quarter-cent, boosting income tax rates on earnings over $200,000 and creating or raising taxes on alcohol, movies and digital downloads.
Bowles said the new revenue would, “save 600 jobs and enable us to teach 1,300 more class sections, helping our students get the courses they need to graduate on time.”
The impact on NC State’s budget isn’t certain since the revenue would not necessarily be applied evenly across the university system, said Charles Leffler, vice chancellor for finance and business. And, he cautioned, the state budget is still a work in progress.
The state of North Carolina faces a budget shortfall of more than $4 billion due to the economic recession.