Local legislators say they support surprise budget veto override

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 13, 2019

SALISBURY — Rowan County legislators joined their fellow Republicans in a surprise vote to override the governor’s veto of the state budget on Wednesday morning.

Reps. Harry Warren, R-76, Julia Howard, R-77, and Larry Pittman, R-83, voted for the veto override, which passed with a final vote of 55-15.

The budget has been on the calendar for the past two months after the governor’s veto.

Warren said House Speaker Tim Moore came into the session Wednesday and noticed that Republicans outnumbered Democrats by a margin wide enough to pass the override, so he called for a vote. Warren said this was the plan all along — to have the right numbers to approve the override.

In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s vote, both parties made sure enough of their members attend legislative sessions during the budget stalemate. In the 2018 elections, Democrats gained enough seats to break the Republicans’ supermajority to prevent veto overrides when the chamber is full.

Warren said he and other representatives were also caught off guard by the vote.

Democrats protested the maneuver, saying they had been assured Tuesday that there would be no vote on the override on Wednesday.

Pittman said he supported Moore’s strategy.

“The speaker had made it quite clear to everyone all that time that whenever he saw that we had the votes to effect the override, he would call for the vote,” Pittman said. 

Warren said the vote wasn’t a win for Republicans but a “win for the state.”

The override is not complete, however. The state Senate still has to take a vote.

Warren said it would have been unconscionable to vote against the budget because of the amount of appropriates it brings to Rowan County. If the budget passes, the N.C. Transportation Museum will receive $2.25 million total over two years. Rowan-Salisbury Schools will get $300,000 to be used for evaluation of its “renewal” project. Miller’s Ferry Road Fire Department will get $50,000 for equipment, and West Rowan Volunteer Fire Department will receive $49,100 for equipment. The Bell Tower Green park project is allocated $50,000 allocated.

“It was the responsible thing to do,” Warren said.

Next is Senate approval before the budget can be in effect, but Sen. Carl Ford says the current focus is on redrawing legislative district maps, which has a Sept. 18 deadline. He said the legislature may continue to pass “mini-budgets” if an override doesn’t get full approval.

Ford said he was not aware that the veto override vote was going to take place Wednesday morning.

“When you’re in session, anything can happen,” he said.

Democrats and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper accused House Republicans of trickery and cowardice.

“Republicans waged an assault on our democracy,” Cooper said after the vote. “They cheated the people of North Carolina.”

Warren said the Democrats are misrepresenting what happened. He said House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D-39, told his fellow Democrats there would be no votes Wednesday, but a vote was on the schedule. There was nothing underhanded about the vote, he said.

“Democrats didn’t show up for work,” he said.

Pittman said he was surprised that there were so few Democrats on the floor Wednesday and says Democrats’ response is a “silly and childish epithet from sore losers.”

“The vote was legal and in accordance with the rules,” Pittman said. “They have only themselves to blame for not being where they were elected to be at the appointed hour.”

The budget was sent to the Senate and needs one Democrat to vote for the override or the right number of Democrats to be absent to pass, according to Ford.

Warren said he is relieved to see the budget taken off the House calendar to focus on other bills and on creating the district maps. He is a member of the House Standing Committee on Redistricting.