Budget fight keeps Perdue, GOP at unemployment stalemate

Posted May 17, 2011 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2011 7:20 p.m. EDT

— It's been a month since 37,000 unemployed people in North Carolina lost their jobless benefits sooner than expected, a consequence of the budget battle between Republican lawmakers and the governor, and some of those affected are struggling to make ends meet.

In April, the Republican majority in the General Assembly passed a bill to extend the federally funded benefits for up to 20 weeks, but it contained a stipulation that would weaken Gov. Bev Perdue's control over the state budget.

If the state budget is not in place by June 30, the bill ordered, Republicans would move forward with slashing Perdue's proposed budget by 13 percent.

She vetoed the measure, calling it "extortion." 

"That was absolutely unacceptable. They were trying to hold me hostage, and I wouldn't put up with it," Perdue said Tuesday.

The extension, which would have kicked in April 16, never happened, and neither side has budged since.

"You're talking about people's lives," said Lori Stancill, of Raleigh, who has been out of work for nearly two years. 

"We had two weeks' notice this was ending. That's unfair to me. That bothers me and frankly, it makes me angry," Stancill said. 

The single mother of two has been forced to move in with her mother, but said she is actively seeking employment. 

Stancill said she's getting desperate for help because her car is on the verge of repossession and she can't afford to take her children to a doctor although they've been home from school with a fever.

"Things are very bad," she said. "If it weren't for being able to live under my mother's roof, then we'd be on the street. We'd absolutely be on the street."

Perdue said Tuesday she's asked lawmakers to draft a stand-alone benefits bill.

"Send it today, and I'll sign it today the minute I get it," Perdue said.

Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Hendersonville, said Republicans have no plans to change the bill.

"We have voted for it and sent it to her. She chose not to support it, so I'd say the bill is in her court," he said.

He called the stalemate "pure politics."

House and Senate Democrats plan to hold a joint press conference at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss ongoing efforts to extend jobless benefits. Watch it LIVE on WRAL.com.