RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Poor people who need help fighting a landlord or keeping government benefits can get an attorney for free through North Carolina legal aid programs, but new state budget cuts mean fewer may have that option.

The budget approved by the General Assembly over Gov. Roy Cooper's veto eliminated well over $1 million in court fees earmarked for the state's three legal aid groups.

The cut originated in the House, but it's unclear why. Legal aid group leaders and the House's top budget-writer say the answer rests with Speaker Tim Moore, but through a spokesman he declined to comment.

The group leaders say the cuts could mean 35 or so attorneys and staff ultimately will be laid off, resulting in several thousand potential clients unable to get help for civil cases.