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NC budget director Perusse to retire; Walker is successor

Charlie Perusse
NC Office of State Human Resources
via Facebook
State Budget Director Charlie Perusse talks with state agency Human Resources directors in this Sept. 2018 photo.

Charlie Perusse, who served as North Carolina state budget director for three Democratic governors, including current Gov. Roy Cooper, is retiring this fall, Cooper announced Monday.

Succeeding Perusse as budget director will be Kristin Walker, the current chief deputy within the Office of State Budget and Management.

Perusse, who will retire Nov. 1, has served in state government for 31 years, with stints as acting budget director at the end of Gov. Mike Easley's tenure in 2008 and for two years as permanent budget director for Gov. Beverly Perdue until early 2011. He later became chief operating officer for the University of North Carolina system.

Perusse returned to the director's post in early 2017 at Cooper's beckoning. As director he carried out what is now an annual state budget of $27.9 billion and other spending directives approved by the legislature. He also worked with governors on preparing their spending recommendations to lawmakers.

“I am deeply grateful for Charlie’s years of service to our state,” Cooper said in a news release. “He worked tirelessly to help North Carolinians and was instrumental in helping craft fiscally responsible budget proposals that invest in education, healthcare and the day-to-day needs of North Carolinians."

Perusse was forced to respond to dramatically changing revenues — from large revenue shortfalls in 2009 during the Great Recession and in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, to multibillion-dollar surpluses in 2021 and 2022.

There were also recent massive influxes of federal dollars from pandemic relief and American Rescue Plan laws approved by Congress. Perusse also had the responsibility of carrying out government spending without a conventional budget when a 2019 negotiations impasse between Cooper and Republican legislative leaders never got fully resolved.

The budget director also serves in other roles, such as serving on the state's debt affordability study committee and on a panel that awards economic incentives to companies seeking to build in the state.

Walker, who will be North Carolina's first female budget director, became the deputy in 2017. She had worked for 10 years as fiscal analyst within the General Assembly's nonpartisan staff, with budget development as a chief task. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy.

“I know that state finances are in capable hands with Kristin Walker and I look forward to continuing to work with her to responsibly manage the state budget and taxpayer dollars,” Cooper added.

Perusse, known for his easy-going style, also served as a lobbyist at the legislature on spending priorities of the chief executives he served under.

Senate leader Phil Berger praised Perusse in a brief interview, saying his staff could speak frankly with him on spending issues. Matters wouldn't always get resolved, Berger added, but “you can't get mad at him even if you disagree with him.”

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