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ASSEMBLY FACES TIGHT BUDGET

ASSEMBLY FACES TIGHT BUDGET

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The General Assembly must cope with a budget shortfall when it returns to Raleigh in May, but three legislative leaders said Friday they do not believe a tight budget automatically will lead to a sales tax increase.

``I don't think a sales tax increase is inevitable,' House Speaker Joe Mavretic, D-Edgecombe, told newspaper editors at the N.C. Press Association Mid-Winter Institute.Sen. Henson Barnes, D-Wayne, Senate president pro tem, said taxes shouldn't be raised ``except as a last resort.'

Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln, the House minority leader, said he is not sure how the legislature will deal with the situation if projections of a $280 million shortfall prove correct.

``I think something is inevitable, either big cuts or something else,' he said. ``Something is inevitable, but I'm just not sure what it is yet.'

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