6/30/12 Perdue vetoes Republican budget

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Perdue vetoes Republican budget
By Gary D. Robertson, The Associated Press The Times-News 6/30/12  
Reprinted with permission.

   RALEIGH — Gov. Beverly Perdue on Friday vetoed the Republicans’ budget bill for the second year in a row, and the outlook for a repeat of last year’s veto override by the Legislature is uncertain as House Democrats weigh their options.

   The outgoing Democratic governor blocked passage of the $20.2 billion spending plan for the year that begins July 1 mostly because she said it fails to restore cuts to public education spending made in last year’s budget.

   Perdue said a week of attempts at good-faith negotiations with House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger were unfruitful, leaving her with no choice but to veto the plan.

   “They’ve said, ‘no, no, no. Take it or leave it,’” Perdue told reporters at a news conference about four hours before the vetoed-stamped bill was returned to the General Assembly with her objections attached. “Legislators have chosen for decades in this state to invest in our children. And this Legislature, for the second year in a row, (has) chosen to not do that.”

   Perdue held out hope that GOP legislative leaders would still work with her next week and invest more in the public schools and other key items.

   “This isn’t over yet — it doesn’t have to be over,” she said.

   The General Assembly returns to work Monday and the override vote is on the schedule. Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said he’s not certain whether the House has the threefifths majority necessary to override the budget veto. The House would be the first chamber to attempt an override. The Senate’s GOP majority is veto-proof.

   Four House Democrats would likely be needed to complete the override, but some conservative Democrats who agreed to the final plan last week are wavering. The governor vetoed the two-year budget last year, but five Democrats joined Republicans to cancel her veto.

   Of six House Democrats who have voted with Republicans on budget legislation in recent weeks, two of them — Reps. Bill Brisson of Bladen County and Dewey Hill of Columbus County — said Friday they were planning to vote to override the veto. Three others interviewed by The Associated Press said they were uncertain or were leaning toward supporting Perdue.

   “It doesn’t seem that (Republicans) want to do a whole lot of compromise,” said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank. “It’s more our way or the highway.” A sixth Democrat didn’t immediately return a phone call.

   Tillis suggested the Legislature might leave town Tuesday, leaving Perdue with a new, stripped-down budget adjustment bill that would omit additional funds for Medicaid, widen the level of cuts school districts must make and deny pay raises to teachers and state employees. They haven’t had a raise since 2008.

   “The fact that she 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,” Berger, R-Rockingham, and Tillis said in a prepared statement.

   IN HER BUDGET proposal in May, Perdue called for 1.8 percent public-worker pay raises, 50 percent higher than what the General Assembly approved.

   The Legislature’s budget would give public school districts $190 million less next year than they received in the current fiscal year, when $259 million in federal education jobs money is taken into account. The decrease and other cuts will lead to more job losses in the coming year under the Republican plan, Perdue said.

   “While some teachers and state employees will get raises, there is no question that some educators and other state employees are going to lose their jobs” because of the Republican budget, she said. Republicans counter that their proposal actually adds more than $250 million to K-12 education spending.

   Perdue tried this week to persuade lawmakers to find an additional $100 million to fund key areas, but GOP leaders declined and accused her of using an accounting gimmick to locate extra funds.

   The Legislature’s plan fails to address her proposals to extend film production tax credits, hire more probation and parole officers to respond to criminal justice reforms approved last year and provide $50,000 to each living victim of North Carolina’s defunct forced sterilization program, she said. A Democratic legislative leader and liberalleaning groups praised her veto decision.

   Perdue bashed the Legislature for a 2011 tax deduction that was billed as a smallbusiness tax break, but also benefited wealthy owners of large limited-liability companies such as attorneys in big law firms. Democratic lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to place a cap on who can qualify for the deduction. Tillis pointed out that Perdue proposed an income tax reduction for corporations last year.

   Perdue had until Sunday evening to veto the bill, sign it or let it become law without her signature.Three other bills on her desk have a Sunday night deadline, including one that would lay the framework to permit a form of shale gas exploration called fracking.

   Perdue has now issued 19 vetoes while in office. Her 2011 budget veto was the first of its kind in state history. Republicans took control of the Legislature after the 2010 elections.