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Originally published: 2012-07-03 14:58:19
Last modified: 2012-07-03 14:58:19

Gov. Perdue vetoes GOP-authored budget bill

School superintendents, Medicaid providers, state employees and concerned residents all across the state wait with anticipation. What will the legislature do? Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed the Republican-authored budget bill on Friday, June 29. 

Republican leaders said that if the General Assembly could not override Perdue’s veto, it would have several consequences.

“The budget doesn’t do enough to invest in our children’s future,” Perdue said. “I have repeatedly reached out to legislative leaders to forge a compromise to no avail.

“If the budget they passed becomes law, schools across North Carolina will get about $190 million less than they got last year. This just isn’t good enough.” She noted that the budget spends nearly twice that amount on a tax break for large businesses.

“I simply don’t believe as a citizen that the General Assembly should give tax breaks to equity partners in law firms, to lobbyists and other wealthy business owners while they leave the needs of our classrooms and our state unmet,” Perdue said.

Major news outlets, including Associated Press, News & Observer and WRAL, have fact-checked the budget and the governor’s statement is correct. 

When the Republican leaders rolled out the budget on June 19, they said that “they were investing more in public education.” Their statement could be construed to be correct if new money dedicated to a 1.5-percent raise for teachers and $27 million in new money dedicated to school reform are counted. But in editorials, newspapers across the state have taken the Republican leadership to task over their statement as being misleading while voicing support for the General Assembly to compromise and appropriate more money for public schools. 

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, admitted to reporters that the cuts in the legislature’s budget could affect 3,000 positions in schools across the state this fall. The budget the Republican leadership passed last year cost schools more than 3,000 teachers and teacher assistants.

The veto raises doubt that a number of budget increases will remain; including money to partially scale back public school cuts of the biennial budget, fund Medicaid and pay raises for teachers and state employees.

“The fact that she (Gov. Perdue) would reject hundreds of millions in additional state funding for public schools and Medicaid, a cut to the state gas tax and a raise for teachers and state employees proves she’s more interested in winning a political battle than in doing what’s right,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and Tillis, said in a joint statement released after Perdue’s announcement. “She turned her back on North Carolina’s children today, and we are working to secure the votes necessary to override this irresponsible veto.”

Six House Democrats voted for the budget, but they might not vote for the override. Depending on attendance, Republicans may need at least four Democrats to override the veto.

“We’re conferring with all those members to see if they would actually stick with us,” Tillis said. “If they don’t, one would have to argue that that’s a purely political decision as well because they’ve gone on record as supporting this budget and I’d have to ask what’s changed.”

The question remains, will the Republican leaders compromise with the governor, try to override the veto or go home without taking action; leaving in place the biennial budget passed last year?

According to published reports, some Republicans are advocating leaving town, Raleigh. 

It’s worth noting that just before the veto, Republicans leaders were working on a supplemental appropriations bill. This is a normal practice to alter the budget; making end-of-session adjustments the legislators deem appropriate. The bill is moving through the assembly now and it may ameliorate some of the worst impacts of not updating the two-year budget and lessen the effective cut to K-12 schools.

Perdue is asking Republican leaders to compromise without raising any taxes. She advocates shifting $100 million around in the state’s $20 billion budget. Her proposed changes would increase funding by: K-12 schools, $76 million, N.C. Pre-Kindergarten Program, $10 million; Pre-k and kindergarten assessments, $5 million; eugenics victims, $5 million; probation officers, $3.4 million; and elections funding, $600,000.

The General Assembly was considering the budget veto at presstime. 

A budget note of interest; residents may not be excited to learn that the cap on gas taxes won’t save them much. Without legislative action, on July 1, the automatic gas tax increase would make the gas tax 37.7 cents; under the new budget cap, the tax will be 37.5 cents.