Lawmakers override Perdue's budget, fracking vetoes

Posted July 2, 2012 11:00 p.m. EDT
Updated July 3, 2012 12:33 a.m. EDT

— The North Carolina General Assembly voted late Monday to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s vetoes of the $20.2 billion 2012-13 state budget as well as a controversial measure to legalize fracking.

The vote to override Perdue's veto on a bill that would open the state up to shale gas exploration passed by a close 72-47 margin, and it appears to have hinged on a mistake. 

After she voted, Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, could be heard on her microphone saying, “Oh my gosh. I pushed green.”

House Majority Leader Paul Stam used a procedural motion to make sure the bill can’t be reconsidered, even if Carney's vote was mistake. 

Perdue said she hope the General Assembly will reconsider the issue.

"It’s disappointing that the leaders in General Assembly would allow fracking without ensuring that adequate protections will be in place for drinking water, landowners, county and municipal governments, and the health and the safety of families in North Carolina," she said in a statement.

The fracking vote came around 11 p.m., a little more than an hour after the House moved to override the budget veto in a 74-45 vote. The Senate quickly followed with a 31-10 vote to override the budget veto.

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said it was 10th time since January 2011 that a majority in the House voted to override a gubernatorial veto.

“For the second year in a row, Republicans and Democrats in the House have voted together in a bipartisan manner to pass a common-sense budget over the partisan objections of the governor,” he said in a statement. “This budget builds on the fiscally conservative foundation of last year’s budget, but restores funding in critical areas.”

He said the budget provides more than $250 million in additional funds to public education, including a 1.2 percent pay raise for teachers. It addresses funding problems in the Medicaid system, cuts and caps the gas tax, provides state employees with a pay raise and gives retirees a cost-of-living increase.

“It accomplishes all of this without incurring debt or raising taxes,” Tillis said. “I am proud of the bipartisan majority who stood together to override the veto, and for the second time in two years, we have passed a budget that will benefit every North Carolinian.”

Perdue disagreed, saying the budget weakens support for education, law enforcement and job growth.

"The General Assembly forced a flawed budget on the people of North Carolina today," she said in a statement. "Under their budget, schools will receive $190 million less next year than they received this year; economic development initiatives to help companies create jobs in the biotech and manufacturing sectors will go unfunded; and North Carolina families will be less safe because there won’t be enough probation officers." 

Perdue said she tried repeatedly to reach a bipartisan compromise, but leaders of the General Assembly “chose confrontation over compromise. This budget doesn’t do enough to invest in our future; it isn’t good enough for North Carolina."

Six Democrats voted for the override: Reps. Marcus Brandon, Guilford; Darren Jackson, Wake; Marian McLawhorn, Pitt; Bill Brisson, Bladen; Dewey Hill, Columbus; and Jim Crawford, Granville.

One Democrat, Rep. Suzi Hamilton, New Hanover, did not vote.

Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, supported the governor’s veto and called the budget a “disappointment.”

“We can do better, we should do better, and we owe it to all the people of N.C. to take a crack at making this a better budget,” she said. 

House Minority Leader Joe Hackney also urged lawmakers to support the veto, calling the spending plan “a budget of lost opportunities.”

“It does take us backward. It does make us less competitive,” he said. “We will be less competitive for the jobs of the future because of this budget.”

But Republican lawmakers prevailed.

“This is the sound budget that North Carolina needs to move forward,” said Rep. Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, senior budget chairman.

Rep. Darren Jackson said he voted for the override because he has many state employees in his district.

“The alternative is that the layoffs will begin tomorrow, because the Senate, the House and the governor have spent the last three or four weeks playing chicken,” Jackson said. “That’s a risk I am not willing to take.”

Earlier Monday, state lawmakers voted to override Perdue's veto of a bill that overhauls the landmark Racial Justice Act.

After 90 minutes of debate, the Senate voted 31-11 to override Perdue's veto. The House followed suit with a 72-48 vote. The measure now becomes law.

The original version of the 2009 law allowed defendants to challenge their death sentence based on statistical data. Now, statistical data alone is no longer enough to convert sentences to life in prison, and defendants would have to show details particular to their case in order to be successful.