Gov. Bev Perdue announced this evening she has vetoed bills reforming the State Health Plan and allowing community colleges to decline to offer low-interest federal student loans.
The State Health Plan bill, Senate Bill 265, would have cut benefits, raised co-pays and deductibles, and charged state workers and teachers a monthly premium for the first time ever. It also moved the Plan under the oversight of the State Treasurer's office, required the Plan to open its contracts with insurers to pubic review, and rolled back wellness provisions that penalized workers who smoke or are obese.
Proponents of the bill said the changes were needed to offset a $515M estimated shortfall for the next biennium. NCAE, the state teachers' group, opposed the measure as a de facto pay cut for teachers who haven't had a raise in years.
Perdue took a page from that book in her veto message, calling the measure a tax on teachers who are already the 5th worst paid in the nation. She urged lawmakers to try again, giving stakeholders more input in the process.
The other bill Perdue vetoed was House Bill 7, which rolled back a 2010 measure requiring community colleges to offer low-interest federal "Ford" loans to their students.
The bill's backers said community colleges should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to take part in the loan program. They said some local officials were worried they could face sanctions for high default rates.
But critics of the measure said no NC colleges were at risk of default, and argued that without access to low-cost loans, students would pay higher interest commercial rates to get money for school or job retraining.
In her veto message, Perdue said H7 would put NC last among the 50 states for access to the loans. "I strongly believe House Bill 7 will harm students, deny them valuable opportunities to pursue their educations, and turn North Carolina in the wrong direction."
Senate Leader Phil Berger called a veto a "reckless" move that puts health coverage for state workers and teachers "at risk."
“With the health plan on the verge of financial collapse, she recklessly chose to cater to her political base and play politics with the health coverage of teachers and state employees," Berger said in a statement. "Governor Perdue’s her-way-or-the-highway attitude is making it tough to get the state back on track.”