Two Years, Not Much Compromise
Maybe the results were predictable, but they certainly don't resemble the rhetoric from a couple of years ago.
You remember the rhetoric, don't you?
Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue spoke of working cooperatively with the new Republican majority that controlled the General Assembly. GOP leaders at the legislature acknowledged that there would be differences, but predicted plenty of areas in which the two sides could and would work together.
As the historic two-year legislative session came to a close, it was obvious that didn't happen very often.
Perdue vetoed 19 bills. A majority of those vetoes were overridden, as House leaders found a handful of conservative Democrats who would join with Republicans to reach the 60 percent supermajority required to thwart the governor's will.
Senate Leader Phil Berger recently cited two key instances in 2011 when any hopes of a good working relationship with Perdue were undermined.
The first, he said, came during negotiations regarding a fix to the health insurance plan for state employees.
Legislators passed a bill that, for the first time, would impose a premium on state workers. Perdue vetoed it
The veto shouldn't have come as such a surprise, as the legislation passed on party-line votes.
Legislative leaders, though, complained that Perdue would not lay out any particulars of what she would or wouldn't accept. They also pointed out that their proposal was not so different from the same provisions that the governor had included in her proposed budget.
The second episode cited by Berger was last year's budget negotiations.
Five House Democrats who had voted with Republicans on that chamber's state budget plan were also working with Perdue to determine what she would deem acceptable to ameliorate proposed budget cuts. With a list from Perdue, those five gained concessions from legislative Republicans only to see the governor make more demands.
The result: Perdue vetoed the budget bill; the five voted to override the veto.
Perdue had overplayed her hand. In the view of legislative leaders, she had chosen politics over governance.
Berger conveniently leaves out another key episode that colored the relationship between governor and legislature.
Any governor, in any state and in any time, would see as a naked, bare-knuckled power play the legislature's move in April 2011 to tie an extension of unemployment benefits to an unrelated provision that would have essentially stripped the governor of her constitutional authority to veto a budget bill.
Perdue ultimately vetoed that bill too, but 37,000 unemployed workers saw their benefits delayed because of the standoff between executive and legislative branches.
Besides the effect on workers, the move helped poison the relationship.
Of course, plenty of GOP legislators probably don't see themselves as elected to work with a Democratic governor. And Perdue and her political allies seemed to increasingly view the veto as the primary answer to a GOP-controlled legislature.
The end result was one in which governor and legislature tried to tack around each other, rather than steer a compromise course.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
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