Mooneyham: Perdue’s vetoes send political message

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 4, 2011

RALEIGH ó Senate leader Phil Berger had some choice words for the governor.
Gov. Beverly Perdue had just announced her four latest vetoes, bringing to 15 the number of bills that had fallen to her red rubber stamp since Republicans assumed control of the North Carolina General Assembly back in January.
Berger labeled Perdue ěindecisiveî and ěpolitically desperate.î
Heís not the first person to tag the Democratic governor as indecisive. Even a few Democratic leaders privately complain that she too often waffles when it comes to tough decisions.
Still, the Republican Senate leaderís description came regarding the one thing that has made Perdue look anything but indecisive.
Over the past six months, Perdueís ability to play off of a Republican legislature and veto Republican-backed legislation has made her look the opposite of indecisive. Sheís looked strong and in control.
Republican legislators and party activists may not like it. Itís the way it is.
Legislators will get their shot at overriding the vetoes when they come back to the state capital later this month. Considering that a few of the bills were passed with bipartisan support, successful override votes may be more likely than with some of the earlier bills that Perdue vetoed.
The governor vetoed one bill, the budget, expecting it to be overridden. Maybe sheís now made a calculation that sheíd rather send political messages than have something close to a perfect record with her vetoes.
If so, sheís embarking on a course similar to the Republicans in the legislature. At times, theyíve passed bills expecting Perdue to veto them and knowing that the chances of a successful override were unlikely.
This political message-sending probably doesnít serve the people of the state very well.
Then again, the political dynamics ó a legislature of one party and a governor of the other with veto power ó are new for North Carolina. Working together to figure out the politically possible doesnít seem to be in the cards just yet.
And there will always be political points to be scored.
The passage of one piece of legislation ó the lifting of a charter school cap ó may serve as a lesson to governor and legislature on how to focus on the politics of the practical.
Make no mistake, the cap limiting the number of charter schools never would have been lifted without a Republican legislature.
GOP legislators, though, decided that they wanted more, padding the bill with extras affecting the schoolsí governance and financing. That changed Democratic grumbling to solid opposition, setting up the possibility of a veto.
Charter schools supporters apparently convinced Republicans legislators that fighting about the extras wasnít worth it. The legislation was pared down to the original proposal lifting of the cap, and Perdue signed it into law.
Perdue and legislative leaders might believe that working out similar deals in the future doesnít play so well to their political bases.
Perhaps. But trying to score political points, rather than focusing on pragmatic politics, always risks overplaying oneís hand.

Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association.