With a massive state shortfall looming around the corner, this year’s Legislature will focus, squarely, on the budget. And, in the N.C. House of Representatives, two Durham democrats have retained senior posts that place them in control of the proverbial purse strings. Rep. Mickey Michaux will again be senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Paul Luebke will keep his seat as senior chairman of the House Finance Committee in ’09. Appropriations and Finance are generally considered the most powerful committees in the House, and this year they should hold additional sway.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Triangle Dems are co-chairing just about every appropriations subcommittee: Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham (Natural and Economic Resources) joins Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange (Justice and Public Safety), Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Chatham (General Government and Information Technology), and Sen. Vernon Malone (Education/Higher Education). Sen. Richard Stevens, a Wake Republican, is sharing the education subcommittee co-chairmanship with Malone, pushing Triangle representation on the Senate Appropriations Committee to 5 out of 16 (yep, 16) subcommittee co-chairs.

In addition, Wake Democratic Reps. Grier Martin (Transportation Subcommittee) and Verla Insko (Health and Human Services) hold appropriation subcommittee co-chairs in the House.