by Bob Geary
Congressional Republicans were ready to shut the federal government down if they didn't get their way on the budget. So President Obama let them have their way — shutdown averted.
Lesson learned by Republicans leaders in the General Assembly. They announced today they won't extend unemployment benefits for some 37,000 jobless North Carolinians unless Gov. Perdue gives them their way on the state budget.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis spelled out their surrender terms to the press this morning — a short video is on the Progressive Pulse blog (go to the comments), the full 20:00 presser is on WRAL.
PB & TT didn't quite put it that way, of course. But the only thing that stands between legislative Republicans and their goal of deep cuts to public programs — including the schools and universities — is a potential Bev Perdue veto.
So here's the deal: Just in case Perdue does veto their budget and there is no budget signed by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, the Republicans want her to agree now that beginning July 1, state spending would be reduced by 13% — a cut that would remain in place until a budget is signed.
Why would Perdue agree to such a thing? Because the Republicans have tied it to the unemployment benefits extension — in the same bill. Either Perdue caves in to their demands or no benefits for the unemployed.
The bill could be on Perdue's desk tomorrow, apparently. The Republicans, not ones to miss the chance at a good joke, said their goal is to take the politics out of the budget issue.
But hey, Obama caved. And from what I read, in order to get the Republicans to increase the federal debt ceiling this summer and avert a catastrophic fiscal meltdown, Obama's already signaled that he'll cave again to Republican demands for spending cuts.
So you can't say the N.C. Republicans have no reason to think they'll succeed.
Harsh reaction from the N.C. Justice Center is below:
From the N.C. Justice Center:
Riders on unemployment bill play politics with workers’ lives, observers say
Instead of addressing the real issue, benefits for unemployed workers, new additions to a house bill would merely serve to distract
RALEIGH (April 13, 2011) — With North Carolina still in the throes of an unemployment crisis, leaders should focus on creating jobs and preserving support for unemployed workers.
Unfortunately, new riders on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits for jobless workers are a dangerous distraction from the real issue, observers said this afternoon.
“Tens of thousands of North Carolinians rely on these benefits for basic necessities, and local economies throughout our state are stronger because of it,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota. “That’s the critical issue for North Carolina, and we should avoid distractions from that key goal.”
House Bill 383 would extend unemployment benefits — but riders just added to the bill would only authorize the Governor to continue expenditures for the 2011-2012 fiscal year at 87 percent of that specified in the 2011-2013 Governor’s Recommended Budget if the General Assembly fails to pass a budget by the end of the fiscal year July 1, 2011.
This would create another effective 13 percent cut above and beyond the existing cuts proposed in the Governor’s budget. Placing such a controversial rider in the bill would play politics with the lives of vulnerable North Carolina families.
“Playing politics with unemployed workers’ lives is unacceptable,” said MaryBe McMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO. “We should be creating opportunities for jobless workers, not seeking every opportunity to advance a narrow political agenda.”