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State lawmakers pass one veto override, reject second one

Posted March 9, 2011 2:30 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2011 7:03 p.m. EST

The state Senate voted Wednesday to override a gubernatorial veto, while House Republicans failed in their effort to override a second one.

The Senate voted 31-19 to override Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto last month of Senate Bill 13, the measure that would have raided the cash balances of economic development funds.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said the Senate had to revisit the veto because of information lawmakers received this week about Perdue’s plans to shuffle money around to cover cash flow needs. He said the bill would give her immediate access to cash from the Golden LEAF fund and other pots of money.

Speaker Thom Tillis says House Republicans do not have enough votes to complete the override, but he said he hopes Perdue will “release the Democrats” to vote against her veto and allow Senate Bill 13 to become law.

It’s not uncommon for the state to run into cash-flow issues in March as tax refunds are issued. In most years, the governor manages it by borrowing money from other areas in state government and then paying it back as tax payments arrive in state coffers later in the spring.

This year, Perdue plans to borrow $490 million, including $100 million from Employment Security Commission funds set aside to pay back a federal loan. The first payment isn’t due till September, so Perdue would have time to repay the money.

Republicans say state law does not allow her to use that money, and if someone sues the state over it, taxpayer refunds could be in jeopardy.

Health reform veto stands

Although it was unclear whether House Republicans had enough votes, Tillis pushed Wednesday for the chamber to take on Perdue's veto last week of House Bill 2, which would exempt North Carolina residents from a key requirement to the year-old national health care reform law.

Perdue initially said she wouldn't veto the measure, which takes aim at the so-called "individual mandate," which requires everyone to buy health coverage by 2014 or face financial penalties. The bill also would require the state to join a lawsuit filed by 26 other states against the law.

She changed her mind after Attorney General Roy Cooper said a state challenge of the health reform law could put federal funding of North Carolina's Medicaid program at risk.

The House voted 68-51 for an override, but 72 votes were needed for an override.