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Senate Republicans 'send a message' on State Health Plan

Posted April 14, 2011 6:20 p.m. EDT

— State Senate Republicans voted Thursday to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of their attempt to reform the State Health Plan.

The plan, which serves about 663,000 state workers, teachers, retirees and their dependents, is projected to be $515 million in the red by 2013. State lawmakers tried to bridge that gap by cutting benefits, raising co-pays and deductibles and charging workers a monthly premium for the first time in the plan’s history.

In her veto message Wednesday night, Perdue said the mandatory premium amounted to a tax on teachers who are already ranked 45th for pay nationally and who haven’t had a raise in years. The state teachers’ group had opposed the bill.

Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said Perdue shouldn’t be allowed to control the state.

“We’re here, and we’re not going away,” Apodaca said. “I want to send a message to our friend.”

Republicans control 31 of the 50 seats in the state Senate, so they easily mustered the three-fifths vote required to override the veto in that chamber. But House Republicans say they won’t try to follow suit.

House Speaker Thom Tillis said a compromise bill is likely next week. He said the governor called earlier Thursday to see “if there was something we could do to work on it.”

“I’ve made it clear that I’m open to meeting with her,” said Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, adding that he’s willing to consider changing the premium requirement to win Perdue’s approval.

Whatever compromise emerges, it needs to come quickly, Tillis said. Next Thursday is the deadline to make changes to the plan that could save the state $90 million.