As the first direct deposits were made Monday into the accounts of 47,000 unemployed North Carolinians, Gov. Bev Perdue reiterated her position that she acted legally when she issued an order to restart the payments without legislative approval.
“The legal authority to restore these benefits is clearly set forth in the executive order," Perdue said in a statement issued Monday."It would have been better if the legislature had done the right thing and sent me a bill that would extend these benefits as I repeatedly requested. But they repeatedly refused. So I ultimately found a way to do this myself."
According to The Associated Press, the General Assembly's long-time constitutional expert, Gerry Cohen, said in an e-mail he could find nothing in state or federal law that gave Perdue the right to order the money released without legislative action to change the formula showing North Carolina is one of the states most battered by the recession.
Seven weeks ago, Republican leaders at the legislature linked the issue of restarting the payments to pressure Perdue into approving GOP-backed spending cuts. The budget approved by legislators Saturday would restart the payments July 1, but Perdue said she didn't want to wait.
"I am confident I have the legal authority to extend the benefits under the powers referenced in the Executive Order," Perdue said in the statement. "But given that the Governor’s Constitutional authority has not previously been used to extend federal unemployment benefits, and given the demonstrated willingness of the Republican leaders in the legislature to use unemployed workers as political pawns, I will not be surprised if they try to stop these benefits from reaching unemployed North Carolinians.”