@NCCapitol

GOP lawmakers send budget to Perdue

Posted June 4, 2011 10:18 a.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2011 3:15 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Senate ratified a $19.7 billion, two-year budget Saturday morning, sending the first Republican-penned state budget in more than a century to the desk of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.

If Perdue does not veto or approve the budget bill within 10 days, it will automatically become law.

Perdue said she will review the bill to see if she believes it does enough for education.

"Believe me when I say: I will not be the first governor to abandon our schools, our community colleges and our university system," Perdue said in a statement Saturday. "I am prepared to veto this budget if my review indeed shows what I fear - that North Carolina will move backwards under this budget plan."

Republicans hold a super majority in Senate, strong enough to override a veto. In the House, the GOP is four votes short of a super-majority, but five Democrats voted for the bill Friday, making it appear veto-proof.

Democratic Rep. Dewey Hill, said he likes the GOP-written plan and will vote to override a veto if Perdue acts.

"We gave our word," said Hill, D-Columbus. "Your word is your bond."

Education spending and closing a $2.4 billion projected shortfall have been at the center of the budget debate. 

The budget bill reduces funding for school administrators and support staff by $120 million and adds money to hire 1,100 new teachers in early grades. Republicans point out this budget spends $300 million more on public schools and $100 million on the University of North Carolina System than an earlier House version.

"We have a budget that restores all the K-12 education funding for teachers and teachers' assistants. The minute that budget gets signed, those people don't have to worry about being out of a job three weeks from now," House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said.

"I don't want to hear that Republicans don't care. That's not true," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. "This is a very caring budget."

Senate Democrats contend the bill would eliminate jobs in the public sector. They cite documents from public schools, University of North Carolina system and community colleges saying the Senate budget would eliminate 13,000 positions.

"To say that this budget can do anything to improve schools is totally misguided, totally misleading," state Board of Education Chair Bill Harrison said Friday.

Tillis said the layoffs estimated by Democrats and the state's education establishment are overblown because 4,000 to 5,000 teachers statewide retire or leave for other reasons in the average year.

Republicans also expect the state to gain tens of thousands of private-sector jobs from letting temporary sales tax expire and offering a small-business tax break.

Democrats have argued the temporary sales tax should be extended to fund education.

By law, the state must have a budget bill passed by July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.