Were not surprised Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed on Friday the budget the Republican-dominated N.C. legislature passed a week earlier. Many of the flaws she noted in rejecting the budget this editorial board noted when we gave a measured thumbs up to the $20 billion plan after it passed.
We found the plan flawed but good enough, given the circumstances. It begins to restore some of the unfortunate cuts made to K-12 education in recent years. Lawmakers gave back $251 million in K-12 funding for the coming year, a boost officials at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools welcomed. And that includes a 1.2 percent state pay raise for teachers and other state employees.
Still, like Perdue, we found plenty not to like about this budget. It is better than the draconian Senate version that was once on the table. But the compromise with the House came short of providing adequate resources for the states public schools and university system or its mental health and criminal justice services. And it continues the legislative bait-and-switch by giving schools more money with one hand, then requiring that they return millions back to the state with the other.
Most abominably, the budget provides no money to begin compensating victims of the state-sponsored sterilization program that ran from 1929 through 1974. That eugenics program was the longest running and the most aggressive in the nation. Victims were often coerced into the procedure or lied to about what was happening. Whites, blacks, American Indians were all victimized by the state through this needless and shameful practice.
Whether the legislature can successfully override Perdues veto, lawmakers still have a chance to do the right thing this year on the eugenics program. Both Perdues budget and the House budget had provided $10 million to finally make amends with $50,000 going to each living victim of the program. When the legislatures budget passed with no money set aside for compensation, Perdue suggested amending the budget with a lower amount, $5 million, to begin the program.
Legislators didnt budge, and Perdue stamped veto on the budget.
Before lawmakers start duking it out over the veto, they can and should include money for compensating sterilization victims. Perdue last week noted that an additional $117 million in revenues has been collected unexpectedly, leading to a combined $350 million in higher collections for the fiscal year that ended Saturday. She says some portion of the $117 million could fund needs left out from the budget.
Republicans counter that the money is one-time funding (an unexpected tax settlement) and is largely the result of a timing issue in which revenues arrived unexpectedly before the fiscal year ended. The unanticipated revenues will be canceled out by lower revenues next year and other obligations, they say.
Ironically, one of those obligations will be to refund business tax payments under a new tax break that begins July 1. That break, created to help small businesses, will also needlessly benefit wealthy businesses. As weve said before, a fix in that tax break, limiting it to small businesses that need it, could have funded the sterilization compensation program many times over.
Lawmakers can still fix that tax break. Or they could use the one-time funds that are part of the higher revenue collections this year to tackle the one-time issue of making amends for the states egregious sterilizations. This budget fix is doable, and worth one more try.