North Carolina State Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry warned that federal OSHA could take over the state's workplace safety program if her budget is cut further.

The state must abide by certain criteria to maintain its program. Staffing minimums require at least 64 safety compliance officers and 50 health officers. If the state falls below those minimum numbers, it would be out of compliance.

"If there's any serious level of cuts in North Carolina, we may fall out of compliance," says Berry, who issued the warning at the N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry's 2003 legislative conference at N.C. State University's McKimmon Center.

Last year, the department had a budget of $13.9 million. The department's budget has had to absorb a permanent 13.5 percent reduction since January 2001. The state budget office has asked for another permanent reduction of five percent starting July 1.

Earlier this year, Vermont Governor James Douglas said he might eliminate the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration because its services duplicate those provided for free by the federal government.