Local Politics

Legislature Ditches Veto Override, Easley Convenes Special Session

Posted September 10, 2007 8:18 a.m. EDT
Updated September 11, 2007 6:57 a.m. EDT

— Moves toward compromise on Monday toned down a possible showdown between the Legislature and Gov. Mike Easley over his veto of a bill that sought to provide up to $40 million in state grants to Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

Easley called a special session of the Legislature to start at 7:30 p.m. Monday to work on a new, compromise bill. He charged the session to create economic-development legislation that would "encourage and promote the maintenance of high quality jobs in existing major business and industry in distressed counties within the state," according to a statement.

State lawmakers had returned to Raleigh earlier in the day for their own special session to consider overriding Easley's veto. After political maneuvering over the weekend and into Monday, however, they appeared ready to consider coming up with a new bill in Easley's session rather than overriding his action in their own session.

"Right now, the different factions of the Democrat Party are trying to work out a deal," Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said.

House members quickly went into recess Monday afternoon, and representatives from the governor's office and state House leaders met in numerous closed-door sessions. House Democrats also held a caucus of their members.

Representatives from Goodyear and the Cumberland County Business Council lobbied lawmakers at the Legislative Building on Monday.

"We're in unchartered waters here. There are a number of scenarios won't know until later," said Rep. Margaret Dickson, D-Cumberland.

"I think we'll be working all day and into the evening to try to put together the best package we can," Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland County, said.

The governor and some lawmakers had been pushing for more comprehensive legislation than contained in the original bill.

Easley had floated an incentives proposal for next year's legislative session that would provide state and local support to more manufacturing companies.

"I think it (the original bill) all harms the economy, and what we ought to do is lower the tax rates for everybody and make a better business environment for all businesses," Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said.

The General Assembly approved House Bill 1761 in July, creating a $40 million fund to give grants to some multinational manufacturing companies. Although Goodyear wasn't mentioned in the bill, lawmakers said it was written specifically for the company, which has a tire plant in Fayetteville that employs about 2,700.

Under the bill, the company could earn the grants over the next decade by investing $200 million in the Fayetteville plant by 2012 and limiting layoffs at the plant.

When he vetoed the bill two weeks ago, easley said it set a bad precedent for economic development policy. He criticized the bill for allowing Goodyear to layoff as many as 700 people and still collect the grants. Easley also said he didn't want to pay companies that weren't bringing new jobs to North Carolina.

Cumberland County officials said the bill represented efforts an extension of the county's economic policies to protecting existing jobs.

"We have done so much to bring in new industry and to create new jobs. And that's a good thing, I'm happy about it," Dickson said. "But we've done nothing to protect what we have."

"I worry that Cumberland County stands at risk of losing some very high-paying blue-collar jobs," County Manager Kenneth Edge said.

Cumberland County lawmakers had pushed for the override special session, saying Goodyear deserved its own incentives, similar to the tax breaks provided to search-engine giant Google and computer-maker Dell to entice them to build operations in North Carolina.

If three-fifths of House and Senate members had supported the override, it would have marked the first time a veto was overturned since governor's got the veto in 1997.

Easley is the only governor to veto a bill. He has issued eight vetoes, at least one a year since 2002. None of the first seven were overturned.