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State budget showdown: Perdue vetoes budget, but GOP poised to override it

Governor Beverly Perdue nixed the $19.7 billion state budget put on her desk by the General Assembly Sunday, winning herself a place in state history.

She is the first governor to veto a budget since veto powers were granted in 1997, and she told lawmakers that education was the impetus for her action.

“For the first time, we have a legislature that is turning its back on our schools, our children, our longstanding investments in education and our future economic prospects,” said Perdue in a statement and speech last Sunday.

Perdue’s veto is unlikely to hold, however. The GOP is expressing confidence that it has the votes necessary to override her historic thumbs down. Five House Democrats voted with Republicans to pass the budget, enough to override the veto if they continue bucking their party. Republicans have a tight enough grasp of the Senate not to need Democrat help for an override vote in that chamber.

Perdue posited that the budget as-is would cause “generational damage” by cutting funds to K-12 schools, preschool programs More at Four and Smart Start and elderly care.

It takes a super-majority of 60 percent to override the Governor’s veto.

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In the House, that means 72 votes. There are 68 Republicans in the House — four short of what’s needed to buck the Governor’s veto. But five Democrats had previously sided with Republicans in voting for the budget, and Representative Phil Haire, D-Sylva, doesn’t think those five Democrats can be persuaded to come back to their own party.

“Some of them were promised something in the budget,” Haire said.

Haire personally voted against the budget proffered by Republican leadership.

“I think it is going to have a devastating effect on North Carolina, and it will takes us years to regain the status where we are now,” said Haire.

In the Senate, there are 31 Republicans compared to 19 Democrats, one more than needed to meet the super majority criteria.

The Governor and Democrats in the legislature are pushing to keep a 1-cent sales tax that Republicans want to eliminate. Keeping the extra sales tax, say Perdue and other Democrats, could raise $900,000 to fill the more than $2 billion funding gap facing the state.

Haire doubts Republicans will capitulate on their position on the sales tax.

“Not no, but heck no. If they do that they renege on their whole campaign promise,” Haire said.

Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, said keeping the sales tax, billed as a “temporary measure” when it was put in place two years ago, is non-negotiable.

“It expires June 30, and if they thought that they needed a tax for longer than that, they should’ve voted for it. If the legislature wanted to have a penny sales tax, they’d have to introduce a bill and vote on it, and that’s just not going to happen,” said Davis.

With Republicans unwilling to compromise on the sales tax, Perdue’s veto, if it stood, would accomplish little but a prolonged stalemate.

“The first of July you get to a shut down if you don’t have a budget,” Haire said.

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