Local Politics

Veto Battle Shows Rift Between Easley, Lawmakers

Posted September 4, 2007 5:48 p.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2007 6:44 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley's recent veto of a bill that would have provided state grants to Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. underscores the friction between the governor and the General Assembly, according to political observers.

State lawmakers approved legislation that would have earmarked up to $40 million in state grants over the next decade for Goodyear, provided the company spent $200 million to upgrade its Fayetteville tire plant and didn't reduce work force levels at the plant below set limits.

But Easley said last week that the bill sets a bad precedent by giving a company money while allowing it to lay off as many as 700 workers.

"There's no end to the number of companies who'll say, 'If you don't give us $40 million, we're going to leave.' How do you know?" he said at the time.

In vetoing the bill, he proposed a different program in which existing manufacturers could earn state and local grants for expansion.

"Some legislators are spitting mad about this," Charlotte Observer political columnist Jack Betts said, noting the veto followed Easley's chiding lawmakers for not agreeing on a budget until late July.

"They may just send him a message. You know, if you want to get involved in the legislative process, come on down, but do it earlier," Betts said.

House Speaker Joe Hackney said he planned to call lawmakers to Raleigh next week to override the veto – it would be the first override since the veto became law a decade ago. But it's unclear whether three-fifths of lawmakers would support the override.

"He does have the opportunity to interact with the (General Assembly) members if he chooses to do so," Hackney said, exhibiting the chill some of Easley's legislative allies have felt recently.

Betts said Easley has enjoyed legislative success without back-slapping lawmakers or having them over for dinner parties.

"That's not Gov. Easley's style, hasn't been, probably isn't going to be," he said.

But he said a major economic development policy shift is buried in the political battle.

"(An override means) we'll provide financial incentives for companies to stay – not create new jobs, just to stay," he said. "I think (Easley) might lose this one."