CARY – Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue said Saturday that she was prepared to protect North Carolina's position as the progressive leader of the South, despite budget cutbacks by the Republican legislative leadership that she said could leave the Tar Heel state trailing Mississippi.
Appearing at a Democratic fund raising breakfast, Perdue said the the Republican House budget that will be voted on next week would result in 30,000 public employees being laid off.
“We are about to see the largest public layoff in North Carolina and maybe in American history,” Perdue told about 350 people at a Jefferson- Jackson Democratic party breakfast at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cary.
She drew her loudest cheers and whistles from the partisan crowd, when she said she was prepared to veto a Republican bill requiring voters to produce a photo identification at the polls.
“I'm not going to allow that – are you?” she said. She later added that her staff is trying to work out a compromise with the Republicans on the bill.
The comments by Perdue and others suggested a hardening of the political lines, as the state's leaders try to devise a budget to deal with a short fall, variously estimated at between $1.9 billion and $2.5 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The criticism against Republicans was some of the most hard-edged heard in recent years at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner events, the Democrats annual main fund raiser. It reflects Democratic frustration with the first Republican-controlled legislature since the 1800s and its conservative agenda.
Perdue had earlier put forth a budget that had significant, but less deep cuts and 10,000 layoffs. It included a partial extension of a temporary sales tax increase of $826.6 million, a move opposed by the Republican legislature.
Responding to the Democratic criticism, Mark Braden, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said: “While Governor Perdue believes $1.4 billion in more taxes, more spending and more government jobs are the solution to North Carolina's economic problems, Republicans are living in reality and have put forward a fact-based and common-sense budget proposal that will allow the private sector to flourish and create jobs while ensuring our state's classrooms are fully funded."