North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says he's been forced to lay off 45 people in his office, some of them attorneys with more than 30 years of experience, as a result of a $10 million budget cut handed down from the General Assembly.
Republicans passed the cuts in June after Stein, a Democrat, took office. The cuts were introduced into the final version of the state budget just hours before lawmakers approved the package, and passed despite objections from police chiefs and district attorneys.
On Thursday, Stein called reporters to announce the layoffs and, additionally, to vent about the General Assembly's actions.
"I was never given the opportunity to explain how our budget works or how we spend our money," Stein said, "They didn't ask the clients that we represent or the law enforcement folks we work with closely every day. And they did it, even though they left $500 million unappropriated just sitting in the state's coffers unspent."
Thursday's layoffs represent about 9 percent of Stein's staff, and they account for only about a third of the $10 million he now needs to trim from his office. He says he's been able to raise another third from various state agencies, and he's now calling on the General Assembly to make up the rest, about $3 million, warning that any more reduction in staff would result in "serious consequences" to the state's criminal justice system.
"I simply cannot make any additional cuts to this department without undue risk to public safety," Stein said, "We've cut the attorney general's office into the bone, and we cannot go deeper."
Senate Leader Phil Berger responded Thursday by saying there were no plans to restore the $3 million Stein has yet to cut. Similarly, House Speaker Tim Moore said Stein has enough money to keep the criminal justice process moving.
The Associated Press contributed.