RALEIGH — Gov. Beverly Perdue and the new Republican legislative majority are about to learn a lot about each other.
More importantly, governor and legislators may learn some about how the voting public sees the relationship and when and where points can be scored with that public.
Perdue appears all but certain to veto legislation designed to save the state $800 million in this fiscal year so that the money can be applied to the next fiscal year. She’ll likely plant that red rubber stamp on the bill despite agreeing with most of its provisions.
What she doesn’t like are proposals to take $8.2 million from two business incentives funds that she controls and another $67.6 million from national tobacco settlement proceeds that go to economic development-related projects.
She says the money is needed to recruit jobs during a time when many North Carolinians need work. Legislative Republicans say grabbing the money will still leave Perdue with plenty to accomplish the task.
Republican leaders in the legislature know harder decisions are ahead and don’t want to be accused of leaving easy money on the table. In that context, their decision is easy to understand.
Even so, they lack the three-fifths majority in the House needed to overturn a Perdue veto. The bill was passed along partisan lines, with legislative Democrats joining Perdue in proclaiming that Republicans had embarked on a course that would kill jobs.
Perdue seemingly has the ability to stop this bill in its tracks if she so chooses and then force Republicans to the negotiating table.
If so, voters may wonder why the Republicans didn’t work out a deal with Perdue from the get-go. If this legislature is about efficiency and effectiveness, shouldn’t legislative leaders have avoided the inevitable delay?
Republicans, of course, will hope that voters see it differently, that they took a principled, fiscally conservative stand. They could also claim that they had hoped to find the votes needed to overturn any veto. (Good luck there on this one.)
Perdue can reiterate that Republicans are only paying lip service to job creation.
The policy and political posturing aren’t the same, but they are inseparable.
In this first real battle, the posturing is especially important. Who wins the public relations fight may go a long way to determining how the relationship between Democratic governor and Republican legislature plays out in the future.
If Perdue can successfully portray legislative Republicans as uncompromising or lacking judgment, they will be more hesitant to disregard her on budget-related bills in the future.
If Republicans can successfully paint Perdue as fiscally irresponsible or as trying to protect Democratic fiefdoms, she may be more likely to leave that red rubber stamp in the drawer next time.
Just as likely is that the voting public isn’t paying that much attention to this initial fight. So the scrap may have to repeat itself a few times before anyone has the upper hand on policy or politics.
Scott Mooneyham writes about North Carolina politics for the Capitol Press Association.