N.C. Senate tentatively offers budget

UNC Charlotte could borrow $57.2 million to build a center focused on power plant engineering under a state spending plan the N.C. Senate tentatively OK'd Wednesday.

The budget proposal would also provide more money for public safety in Mecklenburg County, toll roads in Gaston and Union counties, and several Charlotte area higher education programs.

UNC Charlotte leaders have spent years planning what they call the Energy Production Infrastructure Center. The center got an initial $19 million this fiscal year, and the university has made the center its top capital priority.

Sen. Linda Garrou, a Winston-Salem Democrat and the Senate's chief budget-writer, said senators decided to authorize the debt out of concern for growing energy needs.

House and Senate members are expected to spend much of the next two weeks negotiating the differences in their budget proposals. The House, for example, included no money for the energy center and provided $4.5million less than UNC Charlotte was anticipating for its general budget.

The Senate's $21.4 billion budget addresses some of the concerns Gov. Mike Easley had about the House version. But it, like the House proposal, provides a 3 percent pay raise for public school teachers, far short of the 7 percent Easley wants.