In a last-minute decision Sunday afternoon, Governor Perdue penned the first executive veto of a state budget in North Carolina’s history. This latest action comes on the heels of a dramatic public relations war the governor has been waging against the General Assembly’s bipartisan budget, which differs in total spending from her own budget by roughly 2 percent. The governor has characterized the budget in inflammatory terms, claiming this 2 percent difference will cause “generational damage.”
“It tears at the very fibers that make North Carolina strong,” Perdue said in prepared remarks following her veto.
A memo explaining Perdue’s decision alleges that “classrooms will be underfunded in K-12 [education]” in the General Assembly budget. Republican leaders countered this by pointing to the numbers: while the governor’s budget spends around $5,000 per child in state funds, the legislature’s budget spends $4,800—a difference that many consider to be negligible.
Furthermore, the General Assembly’s budget includes provisions to reduce class sizes to 1 teacher per 17 students, in addition to $50 million more funding for public school construction. Indeed, total public school spending differs from the governor’s proposal by less than one percent. And when factoring in federal and local expenditures on top of the state funds, the difference becomes virtually irrelevant.
Yet Perdue insists on scaring citizens with claims that the legislative budget “rips at our classrooms.”
With substantial GOP-crafted reinvestments in education funding, despite overall budget balancing cuts, many have come to question the authenticity of Perdue’s histrionic cries against the legislature, who she accuses of “turning its back on our schools.” President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R – Rockingham) responded to Perdue’s attacks, claiming her grandstanding on the budget stems from political motivations. “By placing politics ahead of the public interest, she engages in obstruction of the worst kind,” Berger said. Perdue denied any partisan angle in her rhetoric on the budget.
However, while shrugging off suggestions of playing partisan politics with the budget, Perdue was simultaneously sending out fundraising emails, soliciting campaign contributions and touting her stubbornness against the General Assembly’s budget.
“Please stand with me once again and let’s keep North Carolina moving forward,” Perdue wrote in an email urging donors to contribute to her campaign.
The fundraiser email contains the exact explanation of the governor’s veto featured on Perdue’s website. The language, however, is altered to include partisan, overly-dramatic rhetoric inserted in place of more neutral wording. Language such as “shuns,” “devastates,” and “fiscally irresponsible,” have been added to the original memo, giving her words a more shrill and partisan twist.
Perdue’s public relations position takes a turn for the worse with this latest revelation of partisan campaigning on a budget veto she claimed had nothing to do with politics. In spite of her campaigning, however, Perdue’s veto lacks the support of her party. Five Democrats remain prepared to vote with Republicans on Wednesday to overturn their governor’s budget veto.