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Budget line-item vetoes of AIDS programs and Healthy Families program by California governor may be illegal

07 08 09 - 13:10

California Legislature's lawyer calls Schwazenegger vetoes illegal
By Kevin Yamamura - The Sacramento Bee

The Legislature's legal adviser issued a four-page opinion Wednesday that asserted the bulk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's $489 million in budget line-item vetoes were illegal.

The Republican governor last week cut various sectors of government to help balance the budget and build a $500 million reserve, focusing many of his line-item vetoes on social services, such as state Office of AIDS programs and Healthy Families.

Democratic leaders immediately cried foul, saying the governor could not use his line-item veto authority in this situation. Their main contention was that the Legislature had passed a budget revision that cut appropriations rather than spent money as in normal budget acts.

Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine, whose office provides legal counsel to the Legislature, responded Wednesday to a request from Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, on the legality of the governor's vetoes. Boyer-Vine, along with Deputy Legislative Counsel Michael P. Beaver, concluded that the constitution only allows the governor to veto "items of appropriation."

The attorneys said that term does not apply to cuts in previous appropriations.

But Schwarzenegger legal affairs secretary Andrea Lynn Hoch said courts would reject any challenge to the governor's vetoes. She said the Legislature's budget revision contained appropriations.

"The budget – original or amended – can only contain appropriations, so the governor's authority to veto these appropriations is unquestioned," she said in a statement. "Any attempt to characterize any of these items of the amended budget as not being an appropriation is simply wrong."

Bass last week charged that Schwarzenegger had taken "punitive measures against children and AIDS patients."

Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said Wednesday that lawmakers won't file suit against the vetoes, but he anticipates that "several groups" that would suffer from the cuts are preparing legal action.

Lawmakers may seek other solutions in the Capitol. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said yesterday in a statement that his first priority when lawmakers return later this month will be to restore the governor's cuts.

Schwarzenegger said he was forced to veto program spending because the Assembly at the last hour rejected $1.1 billion in proposals to take local gas tax money and approve an offshore oil lease. Department of Finance Director Michael Genest said last week that Schwarzenegger is open to reversing the cuts if lawmakers can find new ways to replace the savings.




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