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Wisconsin ‘wolf’ could visit N.C.

A Wisconsin-like standoff in North Carolina? Or, something like the threatened federal government shutdown that was temporarily averted last week and will face the country again in the coming week?
Could our state find itself in a similar cliff-hanging situation? Could a partisan political battle shut down our North Carolina state government?
Itís not if, but when.
In Wisconsin, Democratic state senators left the state to prevent passage of a budget-related bill that would take away bargaining rights of unions that represent public employees.
Because North Carolina public employees do not have that kind of collective bargaining right, the issue has not seemed relevant here.
But that high-stakes partisan showdown could be a preview of an upcoming crisis in our state.
When we watched last weekís federal budget debate and heard the alarms about a possible government shutdown, many of us ignored the threat.
Lots of people were more worried about the National Football League ownersí dispute with the players than about anything happening in Washington.
No pro football next fall? That possibility got peopleís attention.
We ěknewî the politicians in Washington would come to some sort of compromise. Last week, the federal politicians on both sides reassured us. The leaders in the Republican-controlled House, which is pushing for a very large cut in the federal budget, and the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate, which want more modest cuts and some additions, promised to work for compromises that would avoid closing down the government.
ěWolf, wolf!î we think, when we hear an alarm about a possible federal government shutdown.
But the wolf is there, hanging around, ready to pounce when the politicians miscalculate.
That wolf is coming to North Carolina, too.
Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and the Republican-controlled legislature have different plans for North Carolinaís budget year beginning July 1.
We got a clue about those differences when the governor recently vetoed a bill that attempted to modify the current yearís budget. This unresolved difference did not create any risk of a state government shutdown because the budget bill passed in the last legislative session provides spending authority through June 30.
The governor has presented her proposed budget for next year, which, as required in North Carolina, is a balanced one. She balances her budget by making substantial cuts and keeping about $800 million in revenue by renewing most of a ětemporaryî sales tax. She says that the sales tax revenue is necessary to keep from eliminating 14,000 important educational positions in public schools, community colleges and the state universities.
In response, Republican legislative leaders say they will never allow the retention of any portion of the temporary sales tax. Also, they promise many more cuts in state spending.
Of course, a compromise is possible. And it could happen well before the current budget authority runs out on June 30.
You could even say that the sides are not that far apart.
But they have their heels dug in.
The Republicans in the legislature made campaign promises to cut taxes and spending. They insist they will keep those promises, and Tea Party activists are watching their every move.
On the other hand, the governor has to show that she can stand up to preserve the core of the stateís educational enterprise if she is to build a platform for a re-election campaign next year.
When the legislature passes a budget that does not preserve education, she will have to veto it. Republicans have enough votes in the Senate to override the veto. They donít have quite enough in the House.
So, unless several house Democrats defect and vote to override, the state will be without a budget on July 1.
Remember. You heard it here first.
Wolf, wolf!

D.G. Martin hosts UNC-TVís ěNorth Carolina Bookwatch.î
,” which is taking a vacation during UNC-TVís fundraising Festival and will return to the air on Sunday, Apr. 3, at 5 p.m.

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