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Berger: drilling, easy regulations and teacher pay on legislature’s to-do list

The GOP-controlled state legislature will continue down the same road that it contends has improved North Carolina’s economy over the past three years, Senate leader Phil Berger told reporters in a preview of the upcoming session on Thursday.

That will include balancing a budget, easing regulations and drilling for natural gas.

The Senate president pro tem said pay increases for teachers is still a priority despite the recent news of a $455 million budget shortfall and higher than expected Medicaid costs.

Berger said Republican policies have put more people to work, reduced the unemployment rate and steadily put more money into education every year.

Berger addressed a looming political question before it could be asked: His first remark to reporters was that House Speaker Thom Tillis has his full support in his campaign against U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. It was the first public comment Berger has made on the race, and he and Tillis have sometimes been seen as political rivals within the party.

Berger also said Gov. Pat McCrory’s detailed proposal to clean up the Dan River and prevent future coal ash pollution is a good starting point and will be incorporated into a bill.

The short session begins on Wednesday. It’s main purpose is to make budget adjustments, but a range of other issues will obviously also come up.

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