Legislators working on the details of the state Department of Health and Human Services budget this week adopted most Gov. Bev Perdue's proposed cuts as a baseline, with the intention of finding more reductions.
The Perdue reductions the budget subcommittee adopted totalled $218 million, and did not include the proposed retirement incentives of $10,000 or $20,000 - which Perdue estimated would cut 53 positions - and her reductions in the children's health insurance program called Health Choice. Perdue assumed the program's costs would drop while enrollment goes up.
This isn't how things usually go in budget committees, and some legislators wondered why they were voting on items the group may well revisit.
The DHHS committee has to find $591 million in cuts.
"Why do we need to vote if we're going to go back and change it?" asked Rep. Beverly Earle, a Charlotte Democrat. "I don't really trust anything around here these days. Why is it necessary to vote one way or another?"
Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said she didn't like all Perdue's recommendations, while Rep. Bert Jones, an unaffiliated member from Reidsville, said adopting Perdue's cuts may impede legislators' carving deeper.
"We're going to be different from how we see things in the budget," he said.
Subcommittee co-chairman Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, said voting did not limit what legislators could do, and described the $218 million as a starting point.
"We have another $373 million in reductions that we have to go," he said.