North Carolina lawmakers set record overriding government on budget, fracking

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 03, 2012 2:45 PM
North Carolina lawmakers set record overriding government on budget, fracking

By Wade Rawlins

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - The Republican-led North Carolina legislature voted to override Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue on the annual budget late on Monday, a state record 11th time in the last two years they have overturned her veto.

It was the third time this week that the legislature has overridden Perdue's veto. Earlier on Monday they differed with the governor and voted to open the door to shale gas exploration in North Carolina using hydrofracturing technology and horizontal drilling, known as fracking.

They enacted a third bill over the governor's objection on Monday that will limit death row prisoners' ability to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge their sentences.

The confrontation between the unpopular governor, who is not seeking re-election, and the conservative legislature capped two years of clashes.

Perdue issued 19 vetoes in the last two years, far more than any North Carolina chief executive since the governor got the power of the veto in 1996.

The vote by the legislature means that the state's budget for the coming year will contain $20.2 billion in spending, about $100 million less than Perdue wanted. The vote to override was 31-10. The House voted 74-45 to override the veto.

A vote of three-fifths of the members present is needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

"This is a budget that, just like our personal households, spends no more than what came in," state Representative Harold Brubaker, a Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The governor's office issued a statement saying lawmakers had forced a flawed budget on the people of North Carolina.

"Under their budget, schools will receive $190 million less next year than they received this year; economic development initiatives to help companies create jobs in the biotech and manufacturing sectors will go unfunded; and North Carolina families will be less safe because there won't be enough probation officers," Perdue said.

The vote to override her veto of the fracking bill was 29-13 in the Senate and 72-47 in the House.

"It's disappointing that the leaders in (the) General Assembly would allow fracking without ensuring that adequate protections will be in place for drinking water, landowners, county and municipal governments, and the health and the safety of families in North Carolina," Perdue said in a statement. "I hope the General Assembly will re-visit this issue and strengthen the safeguards before fracking begins."

No shale gas exploration is expected to start in the state before 2014 at the earliest.

All three measures will now become law with the successful veto override votes.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Greg McCune and M.D. Golan)