Gov. Perdue vetoes state budget: Credits Boone meeting for making up her mind
Justin Grimes / (email@example.com)
N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the state’s $19.7 billion budget bill Sunday, June 12, saying that the Republican-led legislature's proposal would do “generational damage” to public education and that she made up her mind while visiting Boone last Friday, June 10.
The historic veto – the first veto of a budget by a governor in North Carolina – sets up a showdown in the House where five Democrats joined Republicans in passing the spending plan on June 4, giving the GOP a veto-proof majority. There are enough Republicans in the Senate to override the veto without Democrat’s support.
The General Assembly’s Republican leadership responded to the veto quickly. House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius said in a statement, “We look forward to overriding the governor's last-minute veto very soon. She has shown no leadership on this issue and no willingness to work with the legislature, choosing instead to veto a budget that protects education and creates jobs.”
Perdue stated that the budget cuts more than $500 million in education funding – having previously said that the Republican lawmakers’ budget is a shell game.
“In the days since the General Assembly’s budget reached my desk, I’ve traveled the state listening to parents and grandparents, teachers and superintendents, business people, community leaders and law enforcement officials. I saw worry in their eyes,” Perdue said during Sunday’s press conference in the old capital building.
“I heard frustration in their voices. These are people who, like me, are proud to call North Carolina home because of what we believe in as a people; because of our legacy of smart choices and planning for the future. They spoke to me not as Democrats or Republicans, Tea Partiers or Independents. They came to me as North Carolinians, and they asked me to stand up for what is right for our children and grandchildren, for what moves North Carolina forward, not backward.”
Perdue said that she was moved during her visit to Hardin Park Elementary School when an award-winning, life-long teacher, Alan Felker, told her about recently giving advice to an Appalachian State University student.
Sharing the moment, Perdue recalled, “In front of this crowd, he looked me straight in the eyes and said: ‘I had an ASU student come to talk to me about being a teacher. The student had heard about programs being cut and the lack of investment in teacher education. I told the student, go ahead and become a teacher, just do it in some other state, not North Carolina.’
“That was one of the most powerful things that have ever been said to me,” Perdue said. “And I thought … my goodness, I’m absolutely not going to be a part of doing something this wrong for North Carolina.”
The meeting at Hardin Park drew roughly 200 people, mostly educators and included presentations by the superintendents of Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany school systems and Chancellor Kenneth Peacock of Appalachian State University.
The superintendents spoke of the budget’s impact on their systems, supporting the governor’s position that the General Assembly’s spending plan shifts significant costs to the counties through discretionary reductions.
They said that increased discretionary reductions indirectly lead to cutting teacher and teacher-assistant positions. Jeff Cox, superintendent of Alleghany County Schools, ended his presentation by asking Perdue to veto the bill to loud applause from the audience.
Under the vetoed budget, Avery County would face $620,174 in cuts, Watauga County would face $1.3 million in cuts, $928,378 in cuts are expected in Ashe County, $421,463 in Alleghany and Mitchell County would face $605,401 in cuts, according to analysis by the Department of Public Instruction and State Board of Education based on per-pupil allocations.
The budget would eliminate 13,000 education positions in the fiscal year starting July 1, including nearly 9,300 in the public schools, according to documents provided to the press from the University of North Carolina system, public schools and the community college system.
Fayetteville Observer reported that Rep. William Brisson – one of the five Democrats promising to vote to override Perdue’s budget veto – said previously that no money will be cut from the classroom in the GOP budget. However, the Cumberland County Schools that Brisson represents announced it was cutting 377 positions, including 130 teaching jobs and 177 teacher assistants.
“We have lived our values – until now,” Perdue said. “Now, for the first time, we have a legislature that is turning its back on our schools, our children, our longstanding investments in education and our future economic prospects.
“They know that much of damage that this budget seeks to do is simply unnecessary. By extending less than a penny of the sales tax, North Carolina can avoid severe cuts to our schools and other crucial programs.”
The vetoed budget lets the entire penny tax that was instituted in 2009 to overcome the impact of the economic slowdown expire.
“Under this budget, we will overlook many of our most at-risk pre-school children by slashing Smart Start and More at Four, leaving these kids behind before they’ve even started kindergarten,” continued Perdue.
“If enacted, the budget will be devastating,” Sara B. Yackey, executive director of the Avery County Smart Start program, told The AJT last week. She is expecting a 28 percent cut of $98,000 and said that she is afraid that the 20 percent across the board cut to More at Four may be the end of the program as we know it.
The award-winning Smart Start provides state funds for high-quality childcare and health services and learning for children from birth to age five. More at Four provides funds for preschool care and education for at-risk four-year-olds.
The AJT asked the governor if the Republican leadership is intent on destroying the Department of Public Instruction and if she sees similarities between the bills being passed in Raleigh to bills in other Republican legislatures across the country that cut deeply into education, undermining teacher organizations and voter ID laws.
She replied that she can’t speculate on the true intentions of the GOP leadership but there does seem to be a national legislative GOP playbook. “It gives me pause,” she said. On Sunday, she went further, calling the spending plan “an ideologically driven budget that rips at our classrooms and campuses, our environment and quality of life, our services for the needy and ill, and the safety of our streets and communities.”
“The same governor who claims to champion job creation and public education has vetoed a bipartisan budget that does more for both causes than her own proposal,” said N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “The only explanation for this veto and her statewide media campaign is that the governor believes it is more important to energize her liberal base than to govern responsibly. By placing politics ahead of the public interest, she engages in obstruction of the worst kind and we will act quickly to move North Carolina forward.”
The bill now returns to the House where it originated. There is no timeframe for the House to act although expectations are that the vote to override the veto may come soon.
Proposed budget would cost N.C. 30,000 jobs, billions in economic output
Key findings by Allan Freyer, policy analyst with Budget & Tax Center:
• In fiscal year 2011-12, the initial impacts of the proposed budget cuts will cost the state 32,022 jobs, $1.3 billion in lost wages for workers and $2.8 billion in industry output. Once the budget cuts are fully realized in fiscal year 2012-13, the cumulative impact will rise to $1.8 billion in lost labor income and $3.9 billion in reduced industry output, eliminating a total of 44,576 jobs.
• Foregone federal matching dollars for Child Health Insurance (CHIP) and Medicaid due to shortsighted budget cuts will cost North Carolina a cumulative 13,355 jobs, $613.4 million in labor income and $1.4 billion in industry output by fiscal year 2012-13.
• The budget’s proposed tax cut package yields significantly weaker economic benefits than hoped, creating 14,793 jobs by fiscal year 2012-13, $574.1 million in new labor income and $1.73 billion in new industry output.
• Taken together, the net effects of the tax cut package and budget cuts demonstrate that the proposed budget in its entirety will significantly damage the North Carolina economy. By fiscal year 2012-13, this budget will cost the state a cumulative 29,782 jobs, $1.2 billion in lower wages and $2.3 billion in lost industry output.