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Budget To Dominate Busy Short Session

Lawmakers are moving quickly as they begin their short legislative session. Their primary task is to make adjustments to the state's two-year budget. The governor has already sent lawmakers a 20.9 billion dollar budget proposal. Republicans are expected to come out with their version soon. The first day of the session began with great fanfare.

Jessica Jones: Well before lawmakers convened in the House and Senate, about a hundred protesters stood across the street from the General Assembly, banging pots and pans.  North Carolina's AFL-CIO organized the protest. MaryBe McMillan is the group's Secretary-Treasurer. She says corporate lobbyists and far-right lawmakers have teamed up to ignore the needs of regular people in the state.

MaryBe McMillan:  It is an agenda that leaves no doubt whose interests this legislature really serves. When we had a budget shortfall, what did legislative leaders do? They cut critical services, they laid off public employees, but still they gave corporations bigger tax breaks.

As protesters cheered, Dallas Woodhouse stood across the street, handing out earplugs to passers-by. He heads Americans for Prosperity, a conservative anti-tax group.

Dallas Woodhouse: What we're encouraging lawmakers to do is drown out these protests cause this is all about raising taxes. These folks are angry that the legislature won't raise the sales tax and we encourage the legislature to stick with their formula of lower taxes, lower spending that's offering real solutions.

It's likely the Republican-led legislature will stick with that formula this year.

Speaker: The Senate will come to order- the Sargeant at Arms will close the doors, members will please go to their seats.

Lawmakers who slid into their seats yesterday got off to a fast start. The House introduced a bill to compensate victims of the state's eugenics program 50 thousand dollars each. And legislators have already filed a bill that would plug a 205 million dollar gap in Medicaid funds.

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