Perdue to veto bill to extend jobless benefits

Both Gov. Bev Perdue and Republican leaders cast the impasse as a disagreement over spending, with benefits for 37,000 jobless workers caught in the middle.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Bev Perdue announced Saturday that she intends to a veto a bill that keep unemployment benefits for about 37,000 people going but also ensures cuts to the state budget.

Republicans who control the General Assembly called a rare Saturday session to pass a bill that would keep flowing federally funded benefits for those who have been unemployed for up to 99 weeks. 

Perdue objected to a measure attached to the bill that stipulates that if a state budget isn't in place by the June 30 deadline, the state government would operate on a budget that is 13 percent less than what Perdue has proposed.

Both Perdue and Republican leaders cast the impasse as a disagreement over spending with the jobless caught in the middle.

"The General Assembly has once again shown they are willing to play games with people's lives in holding hostage some 37,000 unemployed North Carolinians," Perdue's spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said in a statement. "But to sign the bill and suffer the extreme cuts proposed by Republicans would risk the future of this state and the lives of 9.5 million citizens."

"Republicans voted to extend unemployment benefits and prevent a government shutdown, but the governor is too addicted to state spending to support either of those efforts. She should be ashamed of herself," Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement.

"Perdue’s veto ... is the latest example of how far she will go to avoid working with Republicans in the General Assembly," Robin Hayes, chair of the state Republican party, said in a statement.

GOP leaders said the dual measures in the bill were meant to ensure that schools, state agencies and contractors know how much state spending they could count on if budget negotiations drag beyond the start of the new budget year.

"It is a shame that Governor Perdue would cut off the jobless benefits of 37,000 families to avoid cutting one cent from her big spending, big government budget proposal," Hayes said.

Jobless workers whose payments are stopped could recover the money later if legislators and Perdue later agree to change a formula that determines their eligibility.

North Carolina is one of about three-dozen states in which an extended benefits program of up to 20 weeks of compensation was created as a way to lessen the pain for the long-term unemployed caught in the recession's massive job losses.

The U.S. Labor Department notified North Carolina officials nearly two weeks ago that the extended benefits program has to stop paying out by Saturday because the state's recent three-month average unemployment rate had improved from 2010 and 2009. South Carolina and 13 other states have passed legislation to revise their formula and keep the extended benefits flowing, the ESC said.


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