North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue. Photo courtesy of the State of North Carolina Office of Gov. Bev Perdue.

From the State of North Carolina Office of Governor Bev Perdue, shared April 13:

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue. Photo courtesy of the State of North Carolina Office of Gov. Bev Perdue.

This evening Governor Perdue vetoed two bills, House Bill 7 and Senate Bill 265, in an effort to protect teachers and give students more options for attending community college.

She vetoed the bills around 6 p.m. today, April 13, 2011. Below are her comments on vetoing the bills.

House Bill 7, “An Act To Provide That Constituent Institutions Of The North Carolina Community College System May Opt Out Of Participation In The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program”

As North Carolina continues to pull out of this global economic recession, it is more important than ever that we grow and strengthen students’ opportunities to get career training or a college education. As a state, I believe we should search for more pathways for students to follow towards higher education, and I understand the importance of financial aid in helping more students succeed in their goal of a college degree or career training.

So I gladly signed a law passed last year that required community colleges to participate in a federal loan program that makes it easier for students to borrow money to attend a community college. That law was necessary because only 20 of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges were making federal loan programs available to their students.

The General Assembly has now reversed course, and chosen to allow community colleges to opt out from the federal financial aid program. More than 177,000 students would be denied access to the safest and least expensive method of borrowing money for college, and North Carolina would be last among the 50 states in providing access to these loans. I strongly believe House Bill 7 will harm students, deny them valuable opportunities to pursue their educations, and turn North Carolina in the wrong direction.

Therefore, I veto this bill.

Senate Bill 265, “An Act To Make Appropriations and Adjustments For The 2011-2013 Fiscal Biennium To The State Health Plan For Teachers And State Employees; And To Transfer The State Health Plan For Teachers And State Employees To The Office Of State Treasurer.”

The General Assembly has attempted to reform the State Health Plan, which serves 663,000 people – 160,000 of them retired workers and 322,317 of them teachers and public school employees.

But other than 60 seconds in front of a committee, retired workers and teachers’ groups had no opportunity to be involved in the legislative discussions about changes to their health plan that could dramatically affect their costs and their benefits.

This bill is in effect a tax on teachers, who have not received a pay raise – and have effectively seen their pay drop – for the past three years. In 2008, North Carolina ranked 25th in the nation in teachers’ salaries. By 2011, we have dropped to 45th.  Now is simply not the time to cut teachers’ pay yet again. To do so would be a tremendous step backward for North Carolina, and we know clearly that teachers will flee the profession at a time when education is most critical to the future of this state.

I believe there must be a way to bring these groups to the table and to negotiate a solution.

I ask the General Assembly for another, more inclusive version of this bill back on my desk without delay. I support the General Assembly’s reform efforts — moving the Plan to the Treasurer’s Office, where it will receive greater scrutiny and oversight, is something I support wholeheartedly. But I simply cannot sign a bill that harms our teachers and retirees without ever giving them a significant voice in the discussion.

Therefore, I veto this bill.

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Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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