Gov. Mike Easley said this morning that he was puzzled by the decisions of state House members to cut his proposed teacher raises and other educational expense increases.
"It's very puzzling to me how a House who was so progressive on education last year can retrench so rapidly this year, failing to fund More at Four for our predominately minority students, really stiffing the teachers and not providing enrollment increases for college," Easley said.
Easley made his comments to reporters this morning after a meeting of state elected officials.
"It's not only unacceptable, but it's just puzzling to me how they can be that far off the mark," Easley said.
The House's proposed budget did away with Easley's proposed sin taxes increases on cigarettes and alcohol which would have paid for teacher raises and other items. Instead the House's first draft raises certain fees.
More after the jump.
Easley said that even in an election year, lawmakers cannot ignore the needs of the state, which he said includes funding his education priorities such as expanding More at Four, a prekindergarten program.
"Four-year-olds have one chance at being four," Easley said. "These young minds are perishable commodities. You can't just put them on the shelf until the budget gets better."
Easley said he believes the state Senate will "fix a lot of these problems." He said he may turn to a public appeal to put pressure on lawmakers.
"Basically the clout that a governor has...is the support of the people on the issues and you rally that support," Easley said. "I think it's my responsibility to let the people know what's going on at the General Assembly and let them hear from their constituents...I may be taking some more moves in that direction as we head forward."