Republicans Are Owners Of Budget
For days, Gov. Beverly Perdue had forecast her veto of the state budget plan crafted by legislative Republicans.
The move wasn't a foregone conclusion, though.
Perdue had vetoed five bills during this legislative session. Each of her vetoes had held. House Republicans could never find the Democratic support needed to override any of the vetoes.
As a result, Perdue saw her standing in the polls rise. She looked strong; legislative Republicans looked weak. Publicity about polarizing gun bills and abortion restrictions also helped to cast Republicans as moving outside the mainstream, taking up issues that weren't a part of the pocketbook focus of most North Carolinians.
The budget veto was different.
Perdue seems to be making a political statement rather than expecting to actually stop the budget bill from becoming law.
House Republicans need four Democratic votes to override a Perdue veto. Five conservative Democrats supported a final budget bill that increased the budget bottom line by about $400 million over the budget plan originally adopted by the House.
At this writing, those five Democrats have indicated that they'll stick with Republicans and help override Perdue's sixth veto of the legislative session.
If so, the Democratic governor's string of successful vetoes will come to an end. She will send a clear message that the $19.7 billion state spending plan isn't what she wanted or envisioned.
She will also show that she isn't always going to be able to leverage veto power into a political win.
Republicans are saying that the budget veto is nothing but politics.
Senate leader Phil Berger said the veto showed that Perdue sees it as "more important to energize her liberal base than to govern responsibly." House Speaker Thom Tillis criticized Perdue for waiting for a week before acting. (It's not real clear why that matters if Republicans are confident in their ability to override. The new fiscal year is still more than two weeks away.)
Perdue, in her veto message, said the budget would "result in generational damage."
The claim seems over the top, given that her own budget proposal would spend just 1.4 percent more on public school spending than the Republican plan.
Perdue's plan would spend 4.6 percent more on public universities. The governor's budget plan comes in $417 million, or 2.1 percent, higher than the Republicans on overall spending when considering what amounts to an accounting shift for Highway Patrol funding.
Parsing through the high-pitched rhetoric, the Democratic message is that they've already cut state agencies down to critical levels over the last two years. The additional Republican cuts become extreme in light of the earlier rounds of cuts, they say.
The people of North Carolina will ultimately be the judge of that claim.
What is clear is that this budget plan, assuming Perdue's veto is overridden, belongs to the Republicans.
Yes, they inherited a difficult financial situation from the Democrats. It doesn't matter. They are in charge. They made decisions. They have ownership.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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