Senate joins House in override of Perdue budget veto

NC House coalition overrides Perdue's budget veto
June 15, 2011 4:55:58 PM PDT
The North Carolina Senate joined the House Wednesday afternoon in a vote to cancel out Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto of the two-year state budget.

The Senate acted just before 3 p.m. with a 31-19 vote. The House's 73-46 vote came in at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday.

Republicans got help from five House Democrats to reach the three-fifths majority in the chamber required to override a veto.

"They know it's a good budget, they know this is the right thing for North Carolina and I'm proud of them, they're all men of honor in their word and I'm proud to serve with them," House Speaker Rep. Thom Tillis said.

The override clears the path for the Republican-penned budget bill to be enacted over Perdue's repeated and harsh objections. It's the first time in state history a budget has become law without a Governor's signature.

It also means the spending plan for the next two years will be in place two weeks before the fiscal year begins July 1, the earliest date for its enactment since 1979, according to General Assembly records. It also clears the way for the Legislature to complete its regular annual session by this weekend.

The $19.7 billion budget for the coming year spends about $220 million less than Perdue had proposed and lets temporary taxes approved by the Democratic majority in 2009 to expire on time. Legislators spent about $258 million less on public education than Perdue proposed, or about 2.3 percent less.

"We finally brought our appetite for spending in line with our revenues," said Rep. Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, senior co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, adding that citizens "just want government to live within their means."

Eliminating the temporary taxes was a top priority of the first Republican majority in 140 years. Their insistence on ending the taxes became a key reason why enough House Democrats agreed to cut a deal and the GOP won a significant victory over Perdue in what's become a divided state government.

The budget means the highest wage earners will not have to pay extra surtax payments on their income taxes. Starting next month, the base sales tax rate paid by consumers in North Carolina will drop from 7.75 percent to 6.75 percent. Brubaker said every little bit will help consumers because of higher food and gas prices.

But Perdue, fellow Democrats and a chorus of allied groups argued that extending the sales tax would have prevented all the egregious spending cuts in the Republican budget. Perdue said in her veto message Sunday the bill will do untold damage to the public schools and higher education, damage the environment and make people less safe because fewer state troopers and police officers will be on their beats.

She repeated much of that in a statement after the House vote Wednesday morning:

Tonight, the Republican-controlled legislature turned its back on North Carolina's long-standing commitment to our people to provide quality schools, community colleges and universities -- all to save a penny. I vetoed the Republican General Assembly's budget because I believe it will cause generational damage to this state. We must have a highly trained workforce for our state to be globally competitive, and that education begins in preschool classrooms and continues all the way through our community colleges and universities. They are all equally important.

This budget is shortsighted and irresponsible. It cuts a full half billion dollars more out of education than I proposed in my budget. It not only damages our education system but also hurts public safety, our environment and our ability to care for those who need us most.

Tonight the General Assembly may have undermined our schools, community colleges and universities. Tonight they may have cut our pre-k programs and turned our education system backwards. But tomorrow, the citizens of North Carolina and I will resume the fight for what we believe in - that education must be the one priority we never turn our backs on.

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