Steinberg Files Lawsuit Against Governor, Seeks To Block Line-Item Cuts
On Monday, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) filed a lawsuit alleging that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) overstepped his authority when he used line-item vetoes to cut an additional $489 million from a budget revision package last month, the Sacramento Bee reports.
In the suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, Steinberg asked the judge to prevent Schwarzenegger's administration from enforcing the line-item spending reductions (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 8/10).
The governor used line-item vetoes to cut:
- $60.5 million from Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program;
- $52 million from HIV/AIDS programs;
- $50 million from Healthy Families, California's Children's Health Insurance Program;
- $6.2 million from the Department of Aging; and
- $4 million from the Department of Mental Health (California Healthline, 7/29).
Steinberg contends that Schwarzenegger lacks the power to use line-item vetoes on a budget revision package full of spending reductions.
His argument is based on a legal opinion issued last week by the nonpartisan Legislative Counsel's Office, which states that Schwarzenegger can use line-item vetoes only for appropriations bills that increase spending.
Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, said administration officials are confident that the courts will support the governor's line-item vetoes.
"There's no question the governor has authority to veto appropriations in the budget," McLear said, adding, "The real question is why Democrats insist on a fruitless legal battle [that] would only throw us back into deficit" (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/11).
"After shaking hands on a budget revision deal in July, the governor made line-item vetoes of $500 million in allocations toward the state's health and social service safety net -- cuts the Democrats never would have agreed to," a San Jose Mercury News editorial states.Â Therefore, it continues, Steinberg "has no option but to challenge the governor's constitutional authority to exercise line-item vetoes in budget revision bills."
The editorial states, "Trust was already in short supply in Sacramento, but this took it to a new low." It concludes, "It's a shame when lawsuits seem to be the only recourse, but this was one of those times" (San Jose Mercury News, 8/10).
Schwarzenegger's line-item vetoes align with his "long quest to gain more and more budget powers for himself and future governors," columnist Thomas Elias writes in a Ventura County Star opinion piece.
Elias continues by describing Schwarzenegger's various attempts to increase his powers to cut state funding. He states, "When this year's financial crisis came along, Schwarzenegger tried to do on his own what neither voters nor lawmakers would allow." He concludes that if the line-item vetoes stand, "this will be a power grab of classic proportions" (Elias, Ventura County Star, 8/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.