Monday, August 10, 2009
Senate Leader Steinberg Says He Will Sue Schwarzenegger Over Vetoes
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
One of California’s top lawmakers said Friday he will file a lawsuit next week against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over what he considers illegal vetoes of funding for social service programs.
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, said he will challenge the Republican governor’s decision to cut an additional $489 million from the programs as part of the budget process.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, the other Democratic leader in the Legislature, is considering joining Steinberg’s suit, said Shannon Murphy, a spokeswoman for Bass.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the administration was confident the governor would prevail in a court challenge.
“Because the Legislature failed to send him a balanced budget after months of debate the governor was forced to make these difficult cuts,” McLear said.
Steinberg said the governor overstepped his constitutional authority last month when he made more cuts to the Legislature’s revised spending plan. Schwarzenegger did not tell the four legislative leaders he would make additional cuts when he struck an agreement with them, Steinberg said.
Lawmakers took a number of steps to address a steep budget deficit, including program cuts, shifting money from other areas and accelerating tax collections. The solutions totaled $24.2 billion.
Before signing the budget package last month, the governor made additional cuts to child welfare programs, health care for the poor and AIDS prevention efforts. He also reduced state parks funding.
“We elected a governor, not an emperor,” Steinberg said in a press release. “In making these line item vetoes, the governor forced punishing cuts on children, the disabled and patients that he couldn’t win fairly at the bargaining table. And in doing so, he overstepped his constitutional authority.”
Steinberg said he plans to file the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court and will use his campaign funds to pay for the litigation.
In his news release, Steinberg cited an opinion issued by the Legislative Counsel Bureau sent to Bass last Wednesday. In the opinion, the bureau said the governor can only use the line item veto on “appropriations,” but what he received from the Legislature in July did not fit the legal definition of “appropriations.”
The bureau’s opinion states that to constitute an appropriation, “the statutory provision in question must give a state officer authority to expend an ascertainable sum of money for a particular purpose (Stratton v. Green (1872) 45 Cal. 149; Hubert v. Dunn (1890) 84 Cal. 57, 59).”
The opinion concludes that “an item or section of a bill that proposes only to make a reduction in an existing item of appropriation previously enacted in the Budget Act of 2009 is not itself an item of appropriation subject to the Governor’s line-item veto authority…The legal effect of an item or section of a bill that solely makes a reduction of a previously appropriated amount is not to grant authority of a state officer to expend a specified sum, but to lessen that authority.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company