On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the legislature’s budget bill, which fails to meet North Carolinians’ needs for the protection of clean water, clean air, and public health. He called it “an astonishing failure of common sense and common decency.”
His listing of the budget’s problems hit especially hard on its failures to close the state’s health care coverage gap and invest in schools. But it also included neglect of a key environmental protection priority. In his veto announcement news release, Cooper specifically called out the budget’s failure to include sufficient funding “to combat emerging compounds like GenX and protect clean water.”
Gov. Cooper’s side-by-side comparison of the vetoed bill and his own budget proposal noted in more detail that his budget would have provided $6 million to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). This funding would have allowed for adequate staff and resources to tackle the problem of new (“emerging”) toxic water pollutants. On the other hand, the vetoed budget included only about $1 million for this purpose, insufficient funding to achieve the desired goals.
Environmental advocates have provided longer lists of the vetoed budget’s failures. Among them is a “special provision” which blocks tighter controls on water pollution from factory hog farms.
The budget was adopted on nearly party-line votes, and represented Republican legislative leadership’s spending priorities. Unlike in past years, however, those leaders do not have the numbers to override Cooper’s veto on party-line votes. Cooper made his veto statement surrounded by legislators from his own party (including some of the handful who chose to vote yes on the budget in its first pass). If those legislators stick together, they now have the collective power to force real negotiations with the other side. Those negotiations are expected to begin in earnest after the July 4th break.
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