Local legislators back budget veto

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
Governor Bev Perdue’s veto of the budget put forward by the Republican-led General Assembly surprised almost nobody, least of all the officials who represent Rowan and Cabarrus.
“It’s exactly what I expected,” N.C. Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, said. “She had three choices, and this was the most predictable and the most strategic one that she could make.”
Perdue is the first N.C. governor ever to veto a state budget.
In a message posted on the state Democratic Party’s website, Perdue said the proposed budget would cause “generational damage.”
“It tears at the very fibers that make North Carolina strong — not only our schools, but also our communities, our environment, our public safety system and our ability to care for those who need us most,” Perdue wrote.
But Warren said that the current financial crisis leaves few alternatives.
“Everyone says we need to cut back, but we don’t know where,” Warren said. “Somebody’s going to be hurt, offended or disappointed.”
He said he will vote to override the governor’s veto.
So did Rep. Fred Steen, R-Rowan. “This may be the first legislative override for the budget in our state’s history,” Steen said via email.
“The vote may be close but I think we will prevail,” he said.
Steen said the Republican-controlled legislature’s budget makes the right cuts at the right time.
“We are matching revenues to expenditures without keeping the 1 cent sales tax that was to sunset this June 30 as promised,” Steen said.
Rep. Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus, was one of four budget writers in the N.C. House.
“This is the best budget for our situation,” Johnson said via email. “We were going deeper in debt every year.”
Responding to concerns that the budget cuts education too deeply, Johnson said that all teachers and teaching assistants are “fully funded” under the GOP budget.
“It funds everything needed to train workers for available jobs and jobs for the future through the community college system,” Johnson said.
As for cuts to the state’s university system: “They will have to slow down on their plans for expansion but they are good with challenges and always perform,” she said.
Johnson said that thebudget was written by “thinking outside the box.”
“We have completed our 100 day promises but we still have a long way to go to put this state back in good working order,” she said.
“We did not create these problems but we are going to fix them. Just give us a little time,” Johnson said.
Fixing economic problems will require more than just a budget, Steen said.
He hopes to see more cooperation and communication.
“I think it is time our local elected officials meet with the legislative delegation and discuss options,” Steen said.
Noting that Rowan County is “$1 billion behind Cabarrus in retail sales,” Steen said he would like to see more attention paid to transportation infrastructure, especially the Rowan County Airport.
“There are many things to do and the heavy lifting must be done by legislators with much help and input from the local community,” Steen said.
Looking to the future, Warren said that the state must preserve education “to the fullest extent of our ability to do so.”
He also listed infrastructure as a major concern, along with environmental protection.
“We seem to rise to our best potential when things are at their worst,” Warren said. “I think that being financially strapped will force us to tap into our own creativity and increase our own productivity.”
State Senators Andrew Brock, R-Davie/Rowan, and Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus/Iredell, did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
The budget veto is Perdue’s sixth of this legislative session. None of the previous five vetoes have been overridden.
But five Democratic representatives have indicated they will join Republicans to overturn the budget veto in the N.C. House.
Republicans have a large enough majority in the state Senate to override the veto themselves.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

NC House coalition overrides budget veto
RALEIGH (AP) — The North Carolina House voted early today to override Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue’s historic veto of the state government budget for the next two years, completing the key step needed for the Republican majority to cancel her objections and enact the plan.
A coalition of Republicans and a handful of Democrats approved the override by a 73-46 vote. That’s just enough to meet the three-fifths majority required to overturn her veto Sunday of the budget that spends nearly $19.7 billion for the year beginning July 1.
It clears the path for the Republican-penned bill to be enacted today, despite Perdue’s repeated and forceful objections.
She says it would deliver “generational damage” to public education and other services that residents rely upon and make the state attractive for private job creation.
Republicans disagree and the Senate planned to hold its override vote day, said leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. The 31-19 Republican majority is already veto-proof there.
The Republican-led House needed support from at least four Democrats for a successful override. Five Democrats supported the final budget earlier this month and said all along they planned to stick with the GOP, which they did.
Today was the earliest day the House could hold an override vote. Waiting any longer than necessary would be a distraction, House Speaker Thom Tillis said before the vote.
A complete override sets the stage for the General Assembly — the first under full Republican control in 140 years — to end its annual session this weekend.
Republicans have said their budget will create jobs, let temporary taxes expire and preserve funds for teacher and teacher assistant positions. Details of the final budget were released two weeks ago.
“This is a bill that the governor’s had in her possession for weeks, and we’ve got a lot of other matters to take care of and it’s our intention to get out of Raleigh,” Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said late Tuesday.
The overnight vote came under a higher than normal level of police presence around the Legislative Building. Three young protesters faced charges after they shouted from the House gallery in opposition to a bill unrelated to the budget.
The override vote came hours before members of the North Carolina Association of Educators, a strong critic of the GOP budget plan were expected in Raleigh to hold a rally and bring pennies.
They are symbolic of the temporary penny sales tax increase they say would preserve positions if the GOP extended the tax, which they didn’t.