@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Benefits impasse drags on

Posted May 26, 2011 4:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2011 5:09 p.m. EDT

Around 45,000 jobless people in North Carolina will have to wait another week to see if their federal unemployment checks will start flowing again. 

The House was set to vote today on a new fix for the problem. That measure, House Bill 439, would make the needed legal change that would allow people in this state to resume receiving federal extended unemployment benefits.

However, as in their last attempt, which Gov. Perdue vetoed, GOP leaders again yoked the formula change to an unrelated state budget provision.

If the House had passed the measure today, it could have been on Perdue's desk by the middle of next week. But House Speaker Thom Tillis decided today to delay any vote on it until next Tuesday.

"We’ve been told the governor was quoted yesterday in the press that she would veto it. So the question is, if the governor’s gonna veto it, why would we take up time here on something that she’s staked out and said she would veto?" Tillis said after session this afternoon.

He said House leaders are focusing today on the budget instead. "Why would we, on a day when we have all the people here in town able to go and review the budget and spend their time productively, spend an hour, hour and a half here debating something that she's already said she'll veto?" 

I can't find any instance of Perdue saying she "would veto" this bill, and her staff says the governor has not said as much. Still, they don't deny a veto would be likely. Perdue's comments about it Wednesday night were definitely negative, and she vetoed a similar measure last month. 

The Senate version includes a provision that would fix the unemployment formula, though it would probably be July (at the earliest) before the budget measure would become law. That would be too late for some of the 45,000 jobless, who say they're on the verge of losing homes and cars without the federal help.  About 2,100 people are added to that number each week. 

"We may go after it next week, because I agree with you we need to restore the benefits, which would include retroactive credits for those who've been waiting for the payments," Tillis said. "But right now, we're just trying to figure out if we can move with the budget and get it done with the budget."