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Senate passes $19.7 billion budget; House vote starts Friday

The state Senate gave its final approval to a $19.7 billion budget today, sending it to the House for a final vote.

The Senate vote was along party lines, 31-19, with all Democrats opposed.

The House is expected to take up the budget tomorrow, have a final vote early Saturday morning, and pass it to Gov. Bev Perdue.

The GOP-authored budget lets expire a temporary, one-cent sales tax increase. Perdue and most Democrats in the legislature have been fighting to keep at least part of that one-cent tax.

Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat, said the plan will harm k-12 public schools, discourage students from attending universities, and harm the mentally ill and Medicaid patients.

"Is cutting of the one-cent sales tax worth doing all of this?" Nesbitt asked. "This is your budget and you're going to accept responsibility for it, and we're going to make sure of that."

Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican, said the school districts are prepared to take an 5.8 percent budget cut because most were preparing for 8 percent or 10 percent reductions.

"It's not gloom and doom in K-12, Senator," Tillman said.

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