After an appearance at Lenovo's job announcement today, Gov. Bev Perdue took off her gloves and came out swinging at legislative Republicans.
Asked about the budget proposal due out next week from the Senate GOP, Perdue said, "The things I’ve heard did not portend well for public schools, teachers, and little kids who are gonna start school again next fall in crowded classrooms without adequate resources. I won’t put up with that."
"If they don’t want to do the sales tax, then give me a revenue source. But we are going to fund teachers and fund teacher assistants, or I will simply veto their budget," she said.
The governor also weighed in on the political impasse over federal unemployment benefits. Perdue vetoed an earlier GOP bill that linked an extension of those benefits to her agreement to a drastic budget cut for next year if she and Republicans couldn't agree on a spending plan by June 30th.
Perdue has asked GOP leaders to send her a "clean bill" that would make the needed formula change without tying it to anything else. For the past month, Republicans have refused. In the meantime, some 42,000 long-term jobless North Carolinians have been left with no unemployment checks. Many say they're at risk of losing houses or cars or utilities without assistance.
“These people are real people," Perdue said. "They’re not hostages to be held by the Republican leaders in this little-boy game of one-upmanship.”
Perdue defended her veto of the earlier bill, saying their proposal for a continuing budget 13% below her proposal would've made education into a bargaining chip. "Instead of doing the right thing, for the last 6 weeks, the Republican leadership have chosen to continue to play little-boy games with the state, with these unemployed people. And now they’re the hostages."
Perdue also noted that the loss of federal benefits is also the loss of money that could help the state's economic recovery. “This state every week is losing $10 million that would actually help small businesses and grocery stores and maybe a shoe salesperson to do a little commerce. It’s just ridiculous.”
“I’m so angry about it today because I’ve heard this morning they’re gonna play another little game,” she said. “They’re talking about sending me another unemployment package tied to some other piece of legislation. That’s ridiculous.” Perdue comments on budget, benefits
“I refuse to put up with it anymore,” Perdue continued. “They’re not gonna hold me hostage. I refuse to be a hostage. And I would hope the people of the state would say, put your gamesmanship away and do what you were elected to do, which is to do things like help these unemployed people get their job benefits.”
Watch the unedited question-and-answer session at right.
UPDATE: Senate Leader Phil Berger tweets a response: "These are just the kind of games we don't need right now. We need to work together to get things done." And House Speaker Thom Tillis told the AP today the GOP would send the governor another benefits extension bill – tied to another budget proposal.