Executive Watch: Cooper Vetoes Broken Budget Bill

Executive Watch: Cooper Vetoes Broken Budget Bill

Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the broken budget bill that would kill light rail and jeopardize clean drinking water.

In his news conference announcing the veto, Cooper zeroed in on the bill’s shortcomings in education, health care, and the environment. Two of its environmental problems received particular attention.

“In this budget, legislative Republicans gave the chemical industry what they wanted on GenX, but they refused to listen to everyday people who just simply want clean drinking water,” said Cooper. “And their budget jeopardizes a once-in-a-lifetime public transportation opportunity that is a key to economic development and new jobs.”

Gov. Cooper’s criticisms refer to two of the massive bill’s provisions which address hot environmental issues. One makes a technical change to state transportation funding law and effectively kills light rail transit projects statewide, including the Orange-Durham line which has been approved by local voters in two counties, and on which over $100 million has already been spent. “This provision in the budget—which was not subject to any public debate or amendment—was a deeply cynical move designed to target a specific project that is not favored by some in our current legislature,” said Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) Attorney Kym Hunter. “The provision should be fixed, and the transportation selection process should be allowed to proceed as designed, allowing meritorious projects to move forward when they score well based on data-driven metrics.”

The other environmental setbacks highlighted by Gov. Cooper are the bill’s controversial provisions on monitoring and regulation of toxic water pollutants, including GenX. Those provisions undermine state authority over the cleaning of toxic water pollutants, divert needed funding from the state’s environmental and public health agencies to a pork-barrel “think tank” run by an anti-environmental former political aide, and limit the state’s ability to set standards to protect human health.

The General Assembly had voted the previous week to approve the $24-billion, 267-page state budget bill which most members had seen for fewer than five days. The votes were held under rules which barred consideration of any amendments to add, remove, or change any provision. One day after Cooper’s veto, the Senate voted to override it. The House is scheduled to vote on overriding the veto today (Monday, June 11).

During his veto news conference, Cooper left no doubt that he intends to make the bill’s provisions an issue in this year’s elections. He predicted, “The day is coming soon when the state budget will value education, clean water, and health care.”

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