On Friday and early into Saturday morning, the House passed the Senate’s changes to the biennium budget, putting in motion government spending for the next two years. The GOP-crafted biennium budget includes the extension of unemployment benefits for 47,000 North Carolinians that have been held up for the past seven weeks due to a political impasse between Gov Bev Perdue and GOP legislators.
Coincidentally, Gov. Perdue took the occasion to preemptively issue an Executive Order reinstating the exact same unemployment benefits Friday afternoon, taking full credit for actions simultaneously proceeding through the General Assembly. In doing so, she rewrote the law as promulgated by the General Assembly.
Questions immediately arose about the legality of such a maneuver, could the Governor make such a decision? If so, why did she wait so many weeks to do so—waiting until her political adversaries in the General Assembly were in the process of passing their own plan to extend the unemployment benefits.
In a fumbled press conference, the Governor dodged a series of questions on this matter. The following is a transcription of some of the Governor’s more memorable evasions:
[Reporter]: They say you don’t have legal authority, [to reinstate unemployment benefits through Executive Order], do you or don’t you?
[Perdue]: Well today I issued an executive order. Uhh…we have 47,000 people in North Carolina who have been without their benefits.
[Reporter]: Governor, when did you know that you had this executive power?
[Perdue]: I…thought they’d do the right thing. I’ve waited for them to do the right thing.
[Reporter]: For seven weeks?
[Reporter]: Why seven weeks when people were being thrown out of their homes?
[Perdue]: Let me just ask you this, why didn’t [the General Assembly] do the right thing? I have waited…trying to do… what was the process to do [sic]…and I’m over it. I’ve tried to be a team player and to do the right stuff and I’m over it.
[Reporter]: Isn’t the right thing just to give them that money as soon as possible?
[Perdue]: Well the right thing is to work through the process. Not until yesterday had we talked to Labor and decided that we could move in this direction.
[Reporter]: Why did you wait until yesterday to talk to Labor?
[Perdue]: Because… Why did the General Assembly refuse to do the right thing over and over?
With her famous straight talk, Perdue cleared up all doubt that she neither lacked the legal ability to act enact such an Executive Order nor that she is using the opportunity for political gain by waiting seven weeks until the GOP in the legislature passed their own extension of unemployment benefits.
Below is a link to the footage of the press conference, courtesy of UNC-TV.