an attempt by Schwarzenegger to remake California government Around Town, posted by Angry as Hell, a resident of the Bridle Creek neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:22 pm
Veto Flap is Really About A Power Grab
Tom Elias, Mirror Contributing Writer
To most Californians who have noticed it, the ongoing dispute over the legality of half a billion dollars’ worth of late-July budget vetoes by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger looks like a schoolyard squabble. You have the governor and the Democratic leaders of the state Legislature bashing each other and hauling out lawyers to make predictably partisan arguments.
But there’s more going on here. What’s happening is an attempt by Schwarzenegger to remake California government in a more authoritarian form against the express wishes of the people and their elected representatives.
Here’s the essence of the dispute: Back in February, the governor signed a budget bill designed to take the state through the end of the fiscal year ending at midsummer of 2010. Before signing, he nixed whatever items he disliked, making use of his line item veto powers.
Tax revenues soon fell far short of the expectations behind that budget, so a new round of negotiations eventually led to July’s budget revision, with many cuts from the February version. Schwarzenegger treated this as a whole new budget, which would give him the right to a fresh round of line item vetoes. But lawmakers said it was not a new budget, just a series of cuts in previously authorized spending. They argue it can’t be a new budget when less than everything is involved, and claim the governor illegally used his line item veto on spending he previously okayed.
Chances are the state Supreme Court will eventually decide this question. When the case gets there, some bright lawyer will surely ask this question: If Schwarzenegger’s actions are legal, why did he need to try twice (unsuccessfully) during the last four years to pass new laws authorizing the precise kinds of actions he's just taken?
For the latest moves amount to a third chapter in Schwarzenegger’s long quest to gain more and more budget powers for himself and future governors.
Back in 2005, he called a special election, spending many millions of dollars and endless energy while trying unsuccessfully to pass five ballot initiatives designed to give him and his successors vastly more power. The key measure then was Proposition 76, which aimed to let governors cut spending in midyear wherever and however they like anytime they so much as say they think a deficit might be on the horizon. Yes, that measure would have required governors to inform legislators 45 days in advance and give them a chance to make their own cuts. But since any budget actions take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, reality would assure that governors make all decisions.
After that idea lost by a wide margin, Schwarzenegger stayed silent on the matter almost three years. But he was back in 2008, including in his proposed budget then a provision mandating that whenever a governor declares a fiscal emergency and legislators don’t make all the cuts he likes, the governor could step in and make cuts for them.
Both the 2005 initiative and the 2008 proposal sought to give California governors financial powers exceeding those enjoyed by the president of the United States or any other governor. That shouldn’t have been a surprise: Schwarzenegger mused early in his tenure that life would be much easier if only he were a dictator.
In fact, what he’s done this year looks almost precisely like what he attempted in 2005 and 2008. He declared a fiscal emergency and unilaterally cut state worker hours and salaries. Then, when legislators didn’t make enough other cuts to suit him, he made vetoes where and as he saw fit. It’s almost a complete acting out of his prior proposals.
Schwarzenegger essentially ignored the fact his 2005 proposition failed miserably at the polls, along with the rest of his so-called reform package, and the fact his 2008 proposal never made it out of any legislative committee.
When this year’s financial crisis came along, Schwarzenegger tried to do on his own what neither voters nor lawmakers would allow. Now he has set a precedent that will stand for many years to come unless a new lawsuit by Senate President Darrell Steinberg or another like it overturns his action.
How likely is that? “It’s clear Schwarzenegger is trying to exercise some unique powers,” says Robert Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies. “Does he have those powers? Maybe. But courts don’t usually like to get into power disputes between branches of government like this, so they might just say the solution would be for legislators to override his vetoes.”
If that’s the ruling, Schwarzenegger’s cuts will stand because it would take a two-thirds vote to overturn, and no Republicans would go along.
Which might mean that Schwarzenegger has brought to reality his idea of making California governors fiscal dictators – emperors, Steinberg says – despite the fact those ideas have been outright rejected twice, by the voters and the Legislature. If it stands, this will be a power grab of classic proportions.
Posted by John, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm
Nasty Politics Here! Arnold Line Item Veto's!
CA Budget Project - The Veto Debate
An interesting debate is emerging over the legality of the Governor’s line-item vetoes to the July budget agreement. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass released a legal opinion prepared by the Legislative Counsel, the office that drafts bills and provides legal advice to the Legislature. We haven’t seen a formal response from the Governor’s office. However, John Myers’ California Capitol Notes’ article on this issue links to a blog post by the Department of Finance’s Chief Counsel on Fox and Hounds. Now one might ask why the head lawyer for the Department of Finance is blogging on a site managed by the former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, but that’s a subject for another day.
We’ve been silent up until now on this issue because it addresses an arcane, and largely untested, area of law –what does and what does not constitute an appropriation for purposes of determining whether the Governor can exercise his line-item veto authority. The Legislative Counsel opinion on this issue, which is not binding, but which does represent the formal legal opinion of the non-partisan Counsel’s office, makes a cogent argument for why the Governor exceeded his legal authority. Given the depth and severity of the vetoes – which included elimination of all state funding for community clinic programs and domestic violence shelter programs – litigation to resolve this debate appears likely. Absent clear direction from the courts, we’re sympathetic to the position outlined in a Los Angeles Times editorial printed earlier this week that argues that the Governor’s recent actions establish a troubling precedent that would further shift power over the budget away from the Legislature toward the executive branch of government.
While the Governor’s vetoes provide a stark reminder of the scope and magnitude of the reductions in the recent budget agreement, they represent a tiny fraction – just 3.0 percent – of the total cuts in the July package. The $50 million “blue penciled” from the Healthy Families Program, for example, is less than the $124 million cut approved by the Legislature. Debate over the legality of the Governor’s vetoes shouldn’t divert attention from the underlying fact that absent additional revenues, future budgets will continue to erode the quality of public services that Californians and the future of the state’s economy depend on.
Posted by Andy, a resident of the Avignon neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:32 pm
What a MESS!
Lawmaker sues Schwarzenegger over budget vetoes
(AP) – Aug 10, 2009
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's Senate leader has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger saying he overstepped his authority in making budget vetoes.
Schwarzenegger used his line-item authority last month to cut $489 million when he signed a revised spending plan. He said California needed a larger reserve fund in case of emergencies.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg filed the lawsuit Monday in San Francisco County Superior Court. He says the governor had no authority to issue vetoes because the document was a revision of a budget signed in February. He says Schwarzenegger needed legislative approval to make more cuts.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear says the vetoes were legal and necessary after lawmakers failed to address the state's full deficit.
Posted by Janelle, a resident of the Castlewood neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:34 pm
I just looked into this and I am wondering why I have not heard about the situation?
California: Budget Slashing Arnold “The Barbarian” Faces Lawsuit
By Gilbert Mercier
NEWS JUNKIE POST
Aug 9, 2009
California signed into law the deepest budget cuts in the Golden State’s history on July 28. The impact will soon be felt by Californians as the harsh reality of the cuts sinks in.
Meanwhile Governor Schwarzenegger is facing a lawsuit from a California Senator. Senate President Darrell Steinberg is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the Governor, contending that Schwarzenegger violated his constitutional authority in making line item vetoes cuts to section of the approved budget bill.
Senator Darrell Steinberg said: “We elected a Governor, not an emperor. In making these line item vetoes the Governor forced punishing cuts on children, the disabled, abused women and patients. He could not win the cuts fairly at the bargaining table, and in doing so he overstepped his constitutional authority.”
Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger’s spokesman said the Governor’s move is perfectly legal. McLear said: “The Governor’s constitutional authority to veto appropriations is unquestioned, and it will be upheld by the Court.”
However, a legislative council hired by California lawmakers says that Governor Schwarzenegger ’s executive one-line item vetoes cuts are illegal.
Posted by Andy, a resident of the Avignon neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm
A weekly flyover of the state budget crisis
By Robert Speer
More stories by this author...
So you think the state is out of the financial woods, eh? Ha, ha. Not a chance. So many people are picking at the governor’s July budget revisions that they’re certain to unravel. Here’s a rundown of the week that was.
Aug. 13: A coalition representing the disabled and disadvantaged files a lawsuit in the San Francisco Appeals Court against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the $489 million in line-item cuts he made to the budget revision on July 28. On Aug. 11, state Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) had filed a personal suit against the governor, charging he overstepped his authority by vetoing provisions in the package that were revisions to past appropriations, not appropriations themselves.
Aug. 13: In a bit of good news, state Controller John Chiang announces California’s cash flow is good enough to enable him to stop issuing IOUs on Sept. 4, a month earlier than expected. Altogether, he has issued interest-bearing warrants totaling $1.95 billion.
Aug. 13: That good news is followed almost immediately by this bad news: Hundreds of thousands of poor children will begin losing their Healthy Families health-care coverage beginning Oct. 1. The California First 5 Commission announced the day before that it is contributing $81.4 million to Healthy Families, the state’s version of the federally funded Children’s Health Improvement Program, which provides health-care insurance for children whose families are too poor to afford it but earn too much to qualify for Medi-Cal. But the First 5 funding applies only to children up to age 5, so Healthy Families must begin disenrolling as many as 400,000 kids unless more funding is found.
Aug 16: Lawmakers return from their annual summer recess to work on things other than the budget for a change. Problem is, they have little money to spend, face daunting issues such as prisons, water and pension reform, and have only 19 days before the year’s session ends. Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) vow to push for restoration of the $489 million in line-item cuts.
Aug. 17: State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles) announces she is joining Steinberg’s suit against Schwarzenegger’s line-item-veto cuts, noting that the non-partisan Legislative Counsel Bureau has determined the cuts violate the state constitution.
Aug. 18: Democrats in the Legislature announce that they intend to take up a plan that is designed to reduce the state’s prison inmate population by 27,300 and cut $1.2 billion from the corrections budget. Schwarzenegger supports the plan, but the Republican caucus opposes it, preferring instead to build more prisons (with all the money the state doesn’t have).
Aug. 18: California State Parks, attempting to recoup some $14.2 million cut from its budget, announces hikes in park fees. It will now cost kids $3 (up $1) to tour Bidwell Mansion and adults $6 (up $2). Day use at Bidwell-Sacramento State Park increases by a dollar to $6, and campsites at Woodson Bridge go from $14 to $25.
Aug. 18: The Glenn County Board of Supervisors, wrestling with a $2.1 million deficit caused in part by the loss of $900,000 in state Williamson Act subvention funds, learns balancing the budget will require the equivalent of a 24 percent pay cut for all county employees.
Posted by Janie, a resident of the Del Prado neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm
Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy your summer, vacation ended for state lawmakers, who this week returned to work in Sacramento.
Why worry? Because their fiscal prudence and restraint is about to be tested in a big way. At the top of their agenda for the final four weeks of the 2009 legislative session is a move to restore nearly a half-billion dollars in spending cuts Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was so proud to have blue-penciled from the budget just last month. Moreover, there will be an effort to add new tax burdens, despite a brief respite. It was only February that legislators increased Californians' sales, income and car taxes by $12.5 billion. Yet legislative Democrats are hankering for more. All they need is a handful of Republican votes.
Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2009 at 4:38 pm
If you asked my son if he would like a new toy truck he would say yes. If you asked him if he has the money to pay for it, he would say no. If you gave him a piece of paper saying, "if you draw a line here you can have a new toy truck" he would draw the line.
Personally I see our state in a similar manner. The vast majority of people vote for things that "sound good" but they don't understand how the funding portion of it works or what it means. As far as they're concerned its "somebody else's money." Its always easy to spend someone elses money. I do think that somone needs to be ultimately responsible for our state budget. And if the money isn't there, then cuts will have to be made. Maybe giving the Govener the power to do it will insent the Legislature to do it on their own first out of fear if they don't, he/she will.
Posted by Cheryl, a resident of the Country Fair neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 3:43 pm
What a pathetic group....almost as low as the legislature...but nobody is a bad as that group.
First we wouldn't be having this discussion if the people had been bright enough, honest enough, & stood with Arnold in the 2005 special initiatives to do what he said and what you said you wanted. We would NOT be in the position we're in now !!. There's no adult in the legislature, so the Governor is doing what he should be doing ! I fear Californians get what they deserve. Choices have to be made.....we can't do all & be all. Now the problem people, like the ignorant children they are, say well let's change the rules so we can wave a worthless wand and just give ourselves everything we want !!!!! Dummies, it's not sustainable !!! Choose excessive public retirements, or help for poor, or your kids school. Choose! Apparently this legislature isn't up to the task. The current 2/3 is the only thing saving us, the working taxpayers. Screw with it and you'll get a lot worse than a prop 13. Better make the choices ! How about demanding a review of EVERY AUTO-pilot program in the state....reissue the worthy, cancel the UNworthy....please don't tell me there aren't any unworthy....that alone would be enough to support 2 other states !!!! CA is at a crossroads, cut the crap out & act like adults or watch the mass exodus of seniors, jobs, & workers...leave you with illegals, welfare, & Hollywood....no public services 'cuz the kitty will be empty. We need some adults in charge...Arnold will be gone....sadly pathetic legislatures will continue because they are elected by dummie districts. CA is UNgovernable.