Democrat Beverly Perdue on Sunday became the first North Carolina governor to veto a budget bill since the chief executive was given the power in 1997.
Perdue said in her announcement Sunday that the Republican-led Legislature's $20 billion proposal would do "generational damage" to public education. She says the Legislature has turned its "back on our schools, our children, our longstanding investments in education and our future economic prospects."
"I will not put my name on a plan that so blatantly ignores the values that have built this great North Carolina or the value of our people," Perdue said.
Then she sat down in the old Senate chambers and thumped on the budget document a red-stained veto stamp handed to her by Chief of Staff Britt Cobb.
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said the veto was irresponsible and political. He said the budget plan she rejected does more to create jobs and help public schools than her own.
North Carolina governors have vetoed 15 bills over the past 14 years, but never a budget.
The GOP could still win the battle with an expected override vote this week. Five Democrats defected to approve the measure and they have said they would vote to overturn the veto as well.
"Not only our schools and our universities and our community colleges are damaged, but also our communities, our environment, our public safety system and our ability to care for those who need us most," Perdue said.
None of the five Democrats who favored the bill have waivered, despite an onslaught of criticism from Perdue and her allies in TV ads, mailers and during impassioned meetings in the districts of the defectors in hopes of turning them back. Just four would have to side with Republicans in the House. The Senate Republican majority is already veto-proof.
Confident Republican legislative leaders quickly countered Perdue's criticism Sunday. House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in a statement he looked forward to an override vote soon.
"She has shown no leadership on this issue and no willingness to work with the Legislature, choosing instead to veto a budget that protects education and creates jobs," Tillis said.
Perdue insisted the veto wasn't about politics or power, as Berger, R-Rockingham, said.
"How dare he. How dare he," Perdue said. "This message has nothing whatsoever to do with power ... this is about the future of North Carolina."