Editorial: Veto makes a statement

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 13, 2011

ěI am prepared to veto this budget if my review indeed shows what I fear ó that North Carolina will move backwards under this budget plan,î Gov. Beverly Perdue said in an earlier statement.
On Sunday, Perdue made good on that vow ó or threat, if you prefer ó issuing her sixth veto of the legislation session.
Whatís different about the budget veto is that itís unlikely to change anything. The five House Democrats who supported the budget previously apparently still do, despite the haranguing and arm-twisting that elapsed between passage of the budget and Perdueís veto. If at least four of them vote to override, the budget will become law.
Given that scenario, you might well wonder what Perdue hopes to accomplish. If she wanted to make it clear that she takes no ownership of the GOP spending plan ó and obviously, she doesnít ó Perdue could have simply let it become law without her signature.
This veto bears the stamp of being a political statement rather than a strategy to restore education funding, preserve mental health programs or protect environmental regulations ó to cite just three areas where Perdue has raised objections to the GOP budget. To no oneís surprise, GOP leaders immediately seized on that theme, with Senate leader Phil Berger saying Perdue deemed it ěmore important to energize her liberal base than to govern responsibly.î
With legislation affecting voter ID, abortion and even jobless benefits, Republicans havenít exactly ignored their base. The simple truth is that much of this yearís budget battle has been about political jousting and hyperbole more than a real attempt to forge bipartisan consensus. Democrats raised apocalyptic visions of setbacks in education and social services, while Republicans spoke of ěbrokenî schools and government bureaucracies supposedly larded with inflated staffs and padded payrolls. Yet, as several articles have noted, the budget reality says something else. The $19.7 billion budget spends roughly 1.4 percent less on public schools than Perdueís proposal, and overall, total spending is roughly 1.5-2 percent less (depending on whose figures you use).
Granted, those minor percentages represent real jobs and real cutbacks. But the political rhetoric has suggested the budget battle was being waged across an abyss, when in reality itís more of a trench.
Even so, any hope that the governor and legislative leaders might find a way to bridge their differences has proved wildly naive. Whatever statement Perdueís veto makes politically, it says a lot about the entrenched positions and bitter antagonism that have marked this legislative session.