Cover Story: NC Budget breakdown

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) -North Carolina's budget bill is rejected.

"I will not put my name on a plan that so blatantly ignores the values that built this great North Carolina."  And with that, Governor Bev Perdue made history.

Perdue just became the state's first governor ever to veto a North Carolina budget bill.

So, where do we go from here?

The political tit for tat in North Carolina just hit a new extreme.  Republicans wrote the budget plan.  The Democratic governor vetoed it.

This battle really centers on two things:  Education spending and closing a massive budget shortfall.

The governor doesn't like the GOP plan because it includes serious cuts to early childhood and pre-K programs.  It would require schools district to make $124 million in cuts, possibly sacrificing teacher jobs

The Republican budget would also allow a temporary sales tax to expire.

State law requires the budget to be approved by July 1.

But the General Assembly may not have to go back to the drawing board.  The GOP could still win this budget battle in the next day or two.

If no one defects Republican leaders in control of the North Carolina House and Senate say they have the votes to override the governor's veto.  It passed the first time with a veto-proof majority.

And the vote could come in the House on Wednesday.

It was all smiles when Gov. Perdue delivered the State of the State and her budget just four short months ago.

The budget she put together focused on education and programs that create jobs.  But with education and health care making up three-fourths of the state budget Perdue' budget had to make cuts to both programs - education included - to help close a $2.4 billion shortfall.

Republican budget-writers in the Legislature took some of what the governor wanted and some of what they wanted and crafted a budget to their own liking.

But with a big red stamp Gov. Perdue vetoed it Sunday and didn't mince words either.

"I found an ideologically-driven budget that rips at the classroom.. that cuts campuses," said Perdue.

But Republicans point out their budget for education (K-through-12) spends about 99-point-5 percent of what Perdue proposed in her budget in February.

The budget overall crafted by the GOP spends $19.7 billion in the coming fiscal year, that's one-point-one percent less than what Perdue proposed.

Perdue wanted to keep part of the one-cent hike in the sales tax enacted two years ago by the Democratic-controlled legislature that's to expire at the end of this month so the cutting wouldn't be as severe.

But Republicans who campaigned on a no-taxes pledge refused to go along.  Cutting the temporary sales tax and giving businesses a tax cut Republicans say gives North Carolinans more than $1 billion of their money back.

The GOP did make cuts in Smart Start and More at Four and reduced funding for school administrators and support staff.

The budget also bans new state environmental rules that are tougher than the feds.  And cuts $750 million from Medicaid over the next two years.

But as bad as it gets?  Insiders say it's not.  Nor is it as great a budget as Republicans make it out either.

Five Democrats in the House voted with the GOP to make it a bi-partisan budget.  It doesn't appear they will renege now.

One of the representatives is Dewey Hill from Whiteville.  "Our word was there," he said.  "So I can't back up on that. They did exactly what we asked them to do and we thought we had the governor's blessing on that too but that didn't work out."

So what's really going on here?

Republicans say the governor is playing politics - playing to her base.

Perdue says she's standing up for education and says this budget moves North Carolina backward.  There is an election 17 months from now.

It's the first time a North Carolina governor has vetoed a state budget since governors won that right in 1996.

It's Perdue's sixth veto of the year.  Lawmakers haven't been able to muster enough votes to override.  This time it appears the votes are there.

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