by Michael Biesecker
Republican legislators are considering deep budget cuts that could include the elimination of the State Capitol Police and the Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, as well as closing prisons and drug treatment centers.
A House committee that will help decide specific cuts is expected to meet later this week. A draft list of 71 proposed trims seeks to slash about $230 million from the state's justice and public safety programs, potentially eliminating more than 1,600 government jobs.
The list, developed by legislative staffers, also calls for reducing funds for the N.C. National Guard and eliminating paid staff for the Civil Air Patrol, as well as laying off prison chaplains and ending a program that puts inmates to work picking up litter and painting playgrounds.
Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Republican from Smithfield who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee working on the cuts, stressed that the list is a draft and that nothing is final. For example, he said the State Capitol Police, a 77-member law-enforcement agency that provides security at many state buildings, could be merged into another agency rather than eliminated.
But even if the legislators vote to enact all of the cuts proposed by staff, they will still be about $40 million short of the GOP's goal to cut the budgets of justice and public safety agencies by at least 10 percent.
"Everything is on the table," Daughtry said, repeating the emerging catchphrase of this year's legislative session. "The state is broke." ...
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