The House is expected to vote this afternoon on a second attempt to change a formula that would allow some 45,000 jobless North Carolinians to start receiving federal benefit checks again.
In their first attempt at a fix, GOP leaders linked the benefits to a measure that would have forced the governor to either accept whatever budget the Republicans sent her, or manage the state for a year on 13 percent less money than her budget proposed.
The new measure, H439, is more moderate: Instead of a year-long continuing resolution, it’s 90 days. And instead of a 13 percent cut, it’s closer to 4 percent: the measure would authorize spending at House budget levels if lawmakers and the governor haven’t reached agreement on a plan by July 1st. Sponsor Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, says it would keep the state running if budget talks stall.
House Speaker Thom Tillis said Wednesday the new proposal represents “middle ground.” He said Perdue has “failed to lead” by refusing to suggest a compromise.
“She’s been incommunicado on this subject. I’m coming back with another alternative. The governor hasn’t. All she’s done is said 'no.' That’s not good leadership,” Tillis said.
The governor has not actually been incommunicado on the topic. But what she has said, repeatedly, is that she wants lawmakers to send her a bill that makes the needed fix to the benefits formula without tying it to any other issue.
Perdue and Democrats say there’s no connection between federal unemployment benefits and state budget negotiations. Republicans insist there is a link, though how they explain the connection varies from person to person and day to day.
The GOP majorities in the House and Senate are likely to approve H439 and send it to Perdue by next week. If the statement from Perdue’s office Wednesday night is any indication, it won’t get a warm welcome, at least in its current form:
"For weeks, 42,000 unemployed North Carolinians have waited for the legislature to show leadership by passing legislation that will restore their federal unemployment benefits. Instead the legislature has refused to do the right thing and played politics by passing a bill that ties unemployment benefits to the legislature’s budget games.
"And here they go again by introducing HB 439 that would tie unemployment benefits to a budget bill that would cut public education by more than $1 billion. If this bill were to become law in its current form, thousands of teachers, teaching assistants and students would be held hostage by the legislature’s political games. On behalf of the 42,000 unemployed North Carolinians who have been denied benefits, I call on the General Assembly to act and pass a bill that solely addresses these federally funded unemployment benefits."