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Morning Memo: McCrory budget may emerge soon, men oppose 'nipple bill'

McCRORY BUDGET RELEASE NEXT WEEK? Top GOP lawmakers say Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to release his state budget plan next week. The governor's office is remaining mum. But budget details are leaking to lawmakers, who say McCrory's spending plan isn't like to include details of a major tax overhaul, such as corporate or personal income tax cuts, and instead it will assume the tax plan being negotiated privately by Republicans will be revenue neutral.

MEN OPPOSE NIPPLE BILL: Public Policy Polling will release more from its statewide voter survey later Friday. But here's a peak: nearly half of men -- 45 percent -- oppose the bill to prohibit women from barring their breasts and 34 percent support. Women are deadlocked at 38 percent on what is called the "nipple bill." (Insert stereotypical joke about men here.)

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. And read much more below.***

Wake lawmakers split on interstate loop bill

Moving to erase a law that has stopped progress on the next leg of the 540 Outer Loop, two Wake County House members filed a bill Wednesday to allow study of the Red Route option – which would bulldoze parks and neighborhoods in Garner.

But Garner’s new senator said he would oppose the legislation. “I can’t support a bill that will approve study of a route that we don’t intend to fund – and will go straight through the middle of one of the towns that I represent,” said Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican elected in November, whose district includes Garner. The bill was filed Wednesday by Reps. Paul Stam of Apex and Nelson Dollar of Cary, both Republicans. Barefoot is Stam's former legislative aide.

Wake County leaders and state Department of Transportation officials favor the Orange Route, south of Garner, as the path for extending the six-lane 540 Outer Loop expressway across southern Wake. A 2011 law forbids DOT to build or even study the Red Route. Read more here.

Martin focused on pay raises

Grier MartinRep. Grier Martin is focused on raising state workers' salaries.

The Raleigh Democrat said that his biggest budget-related goal this session will be to bring teachers' salaries closer to the national average and give state workers a pay raise.

He does not think Gov. Mike Easley's proposed 7 percent pay raise for teachers and 1.5 percent raise for state employees is enough, though he declined to give a specific percentage that he would like to see.

"We need more," he said, "but we've got to figure out how we're going to pay for that too."

Apart from the budget, Martin said he hopes the legislature does not rush a comprehensive transportation fix. He said that it's too big of an issue to solve in a short session, though he hopes the legislature will make progress on finishing Interstate 540 and providing light rail in the Triangle.

"We do not need to be solving the transportation issue (in the short session) because that is a problem that requires careful, well-informed thought and doesn't lend itself to a quick and dirty solution," he said. "We'll just screw it up."

Clarification: Martin said he supports a transportation bond this fall, but not an overhaul of the entire system in the short session. 

Harrell focused on I-540 extension

State Rep. Ty Harrell is focused on roads.

The Raleigh Democrat said he will be focused on finding a way to connect Interstate 540 to Western Wake County, estimated to cost approximately $12 to $18 million.

Harrell said he does not want to see the extension built with a toll road, but he also wants to make sure the highway is extended soon. Under current plans, the completion date for the road is 2032.

"Western Wake County deserves to be able to use 540," he said.

Harrell said he would also work to reduce or end the transfer of money from the state Highway Trust Fund to the general fund, so that more of that money could be spent on roads.

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