Do what’s right, Owens: Don’t override Perdue veto

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Thanks to the votes of state Reps. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, Tim Spear, D-Washington, and three other House Democrats, a “compromise” budget that’s bad for public education, health care and the environment is likely to become law July 1 regardless of what Gov. Bev Perdue thinks of the plan.

Owens and the other Democrats on Friday supplied the critical five votes Republican House and Senate leaders need to override Perdue’s veto should she decide to use one to try and block the GOP budget. An override of the governor’s veto requires a two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature. With Owens, Spear and the other three Democrats on board, the GOP will meet that vote threshold should Perdue decide to veto the budget.

That’s too bad, because unlike Owens we don’t see the value in the GOP budget.

Sure, it restores funding for 13,000 teaching assistant positions in grades 1-3 and puts back $100 million for the university system, both of which had been removed in earlier versions of the budget. And yes, it puts back the money needed to operate Museum of the Albemarle, continue development of the Mid-Currituck Bridge across Currituck Sound and exempt the Knotts Island and Ocracoke ferries from tolls imposed on other ferries. The museum had been targeted for closure and the bridge project for elimination in the previous Senate version of the budget.

Even so, these concessions seem like high prices to pay for a budget that, among other things, is still projected to eliminate 13,000 education positions, including 9,300 in the public schools; lose the state $1.2 billion in federal matching funds for Medicaid funding; slash funding for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund from $100 million annually to $11.3 million; and eliminate the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund, a program that fights obesity and that’s put a significant dent in the number of teen smokers in North Carolina.

The cuts to public education are probably the worst part of the Republican budget plan. Besides the $124.2 million that local school districts will have to make in discretionary cuts, the University of North Carolina System will have to spread $414 million in spending reductions across its 17 campuses and the N.C. Community College System will have to impose budget cuts totalling $50.8 million. These cuts almost certainly will result in layoffs of employees.

Owens acknowledged that the cuts to education are severe, and not what he would have proposed if economic times were better and Democrats were in charge of writing the state budget.

Even so, Owens said he voted for the Republican budget and is apparently on board to override Perdue’s veto — should it come — because he’s satisfied with the compromise Republicans agreed to.

“To be honest with you, we never thought they would come this far, and they did,” Owens said last week, referring to the money Republicans agreed to put back in the budget for teacher assistants.

Trouble is, calling the Republican budget a “compromise” is a mistake. In fact, it’s nothing of the kind.

A compromise is supposed to involve one side giving a little and the other side giving a little, and neither side getting everything they want. That’s not what happened with the compromise budget plan Owens and the other four House Democrats voted for.

Sure, there’s compromise on the spending side of the budget. Owens, Spear and the other House Democrats apparently were able to win concessions from Republicans on the amounts of money coming out of the budget for education spending. But there was zero compromise by Republicans on the revenue being put into the budget. GOP leaders, who vowed to eliminate two “temporary” taxes imposed in 2009, refused to budge on that pledge in the “compromise” budget plan that was approved. As a result, the state will lose $1.3 billion a year in revenue.

If this had been a true compromise, Republicans would have given a little on the temporary taxes charged on retail sales and high-income earners. Perdue in her own budget proposal, for example, only kept three-fourths of the temporary sales tax in place, allowing the remaining one-quarter to expire on June 30. If Republicans had seriously been interested in compromise, they would have proposed to keep half, or a quarter even, of the sales tax in place.

With just that quarter of the sales tax left intact, the state would have had additional millions in revenue next year — enough, possibly, to eliminate any job cuts in education. As things now stand, any private-sector jobs that Republicans claim will be generated by the sunset of the temporary taxes almost certainly will be canceled out by the job losses in education.

Though claiming he personally favored keeping the temporary sales tax in place, Owens said he voted for the Republican budget because GOP leaders had made it clear they would not support continuing the temporary taxes for another year. So much for compromise.

Owens also said he wanted to head off what he called a potential “train wreck” between strong-willed Republicans and the governor over the budget. Owens apparently was concerned that an impasse might possibly lead to a government shutdown.

“I feel like I’m doing the right thing rather than the politically right thing,” Owens said. “I believe in negotiating and trying to make it better rather than just put my head in the sand and say ‘I don’t like it’ and put war paint on and fight.”

In addition to his questionable use of an outdated and possibly racially insensitive metaphor, Owens appears to be saying that having a deal is more important than making sure the deal meets your principles, and that fighting for those principles sometimes just isn’t worth the effort.

Given his lack of zeal for a fight with Republicans over spending cuts that will hurt his constituents, it makes sense that Owens now says he’s “95 percent” certain that he won’t be seeking a tenth term next year.

That decision is certainly sad news to those of us who have followed Owens’ career and admired his leadership over the years. But it’s sadder still to think that his support for this hurtful spending plan — and not the improvements to northeastern North Carolina that he’s worked so hard to achieve these past 16 years — will be one of his final legacies.

We know legacy is also important to Owens. That’s why we remain hopeful that he will reconsider his stance on the GOP budget and do the right thing in the end — vote no when Republicans ask him to override Gov. Perdue’s veto.

US SENATE

Richard Burr (R)

217 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

1-202-224-31542000 W. First St., Suite 508

Winston-Salem, NC 27104

1-336-631-5125Website: http://burr.senate.gov/public/

 

Kay R. Hagan (D)

521 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

1-202-224-6342

310 New Bern Ave.

Raleigh, NC 27601

1-919-856-4630

Contact Kay: http://hagan.senate.gov/

US HOUSE

G.K. Butterfield (D)

2305 Rayburn HOB

Washington, DC 20515

1-202-225-3101216 NE Nash St., Suite B

Wilson, NC 27893

1-252-237-9816

Website: http://butterfield.house.gov/

 

Walter B. Jones Jr. (R)

2333 Rayburn HOB

Washington, DC 20515

1-202-225-3415 or 1-252-931-1003

Email: congjones@mail.house.gov

 

NC SENATE

Ed Jones (D)

NC Senate

300 N. Salisbury St., Room 518

Raleigh, NC 27603

1-919-715-3032 Email: edward.jones@ncleg.net

 

Stan White (D)

NC Senate

16 W. Jones St., Room 1121

Raleigh, NC 27601-2808

 

NC HOUSE

William C. Owens Jr. (D)

NC House of Representatives

300 N. Salisbury St., Room 611

Raleigh, NC 27603

1-919-733-0010Email: bill.owens@ncleg.net

 

Timothy L. Spear (D)

NC House of Representatives

300 N. Salisbury St., Room 402

Raleigh, NC 27603

1-919-715-3029

Email: tim.spear@ncleg.net

 

Annie W. Mobley (D)

NC House of Representatives

300 N. Salisbury St., Room 501

Raleigh, NC 27603

1-919-733-5780 or 1-252-332-5463

Email: annie.mobley@ncleg.net

Comments

Step Up Bill

It is time to step up and do what is Right! Vote to overide the Perdue Veto! Remember that we are all watching what you are doing and how you are voting. Be a fiscal conservitive and vote to cut the wasteful spending that has gotten this state's educational system to the Low that is is. Teacher's unions always say we need more money. I say if you want more of our money, first do something postive with the moneies we have given you. Money will not fix the problems in our schools, disipline might be a good place to start. How about School uniforms for a start! Vote to overide Perdue.

budget waste

I would like to see the state look into the "medical transport" businesses that have spread of the entire state.My concern is how "needed" this is. Are all the tranports "needed" or a "convience "? What are the costs to medicaid and medicare for each transport? From talking to some emt's that work for some of these businesses I learned a few things. Such as most are paid $10-$12 dollars an hour. Most of their work day is spent sitting in a waiting room. Most have basic emt certification.I am not sure the basic emt certification qualifies someone to handle a dialysis patient or cancer patient going for cemo. With the waste the state found with home service providers in the mental health community in this state I am sure there is waste in this area also. It's worth looking into at the very least. I am sure some seriously ill people need this service ;however, from what I have been told some could also have family members take them to the doctor.

SAD

SAD, SAD,SAD as a human being to make such a statement. Think about the children. For once, take your personal feelings out of this.

This is nothing more than a thinly veiled re-election

commercial for Gov. Perdue. No surrise from the editorial staff of this paper. There is a mere 1-2% difference in Perdue's proposed budget and the one passed with Owen's vote. Let's just see if the sky really falls after the naysayers claim it will. Money hasn't produced results in education. It has produced a ridiculous bureaucracy. Support teachers who want to teach by controlling the environment and getting rid of dead weight in administration. Superintendents and "consultant" pay is inappropriately high.

Do what's right

Do what's right, Owens: OVERRIDE Perdue veto!!!!!!!!

SAD

Think about the children.

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