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Budget Spat Between Gov. McAuliffe and Republicans escalates

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Governor Terry McAuliffe (FILE IMAGE) Governor Terry McAuliffe (FILE IMAGE)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is escalating a fight with Republican lawmakers over who has the final say in what's in the state budget.

The Democratic governor issued an executive order Friday directing his staff to abide by his version of the state budget, not the final one enrolled by the clerk of the state House.

GOP House Speaker William J. Howell previously ordered the House clerk to ignore vetoes McAuliffe tried to make to certain sections of the budget. That included a provision McAuliffe said "could preclude" unionized construction contractors from taking part in public-private transportation projects and another section aimed at prohibiting him from expanding Medicaid.

McAuliffe says the clerk doesn't have the authority to ignore his vetoes, while Howell called McAuliffe's executive orders "nonsensical."

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05/12/2017 Release from the Commonwealth of Virginia Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe:

RICHMOND - Today Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order 65, which directs Virginia Executive Branch Agencies to enact the budget in accordance with each of the five item vetoes he returned to the General Assembly on April 28, 2017.

Despite the governor’s clear constitutional authority to veto entire items or unconstitutional provisions within the budget bill, the clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates sought to invalidate the governor’s actions by deciding not to print them in the final version of the bill.

As the executive order below explains, this action represents a dangerous legislative overreach that is inconsistent with the plain language of the constitution and the courts’ interpretation of the governor’s veto authority.

The full executive order is below:

NUMBER SIXTY FIVE (2017)
EXECUTIVE ORDER ON CHAPTER 836, 2017 ACTS OF ASSEMBLY (the 2017 APPROPRIATION ACT)


Importance of the Order
Article V, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia vests in the Governor the power to veto certain items within any appropriation act. This is an essential power which permits the Governor to prevent legislative overreach and maintain fiscal discipline for the Commonwealth. Since the Supreme Court of Virginia decided Commonwealth v. Dodson, this power has “undoubtedly” included the ability to veto entire “items or unconstitutional provisions” in appropriation bills. 176 Va. 281, 310 (1940).

On April 28, 2017, I signed HB 1500 (the Budget Bill) with a communication of five item vetoes related to cybersecurity public service scholarships, the settlement of Medicaid claims, the expansion of the Virginia Medicaid program, new conditions on funding for the Secretary of Transportation, and funding for the Virginia Coalfields Economic Development Authority. In addition, I noted that certain language in Item 125, which would authorize the Comptroller to withhold funds from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership until it met certain conditions as approved by specific General Assembly members, was unconstitutional and unenforceable. On May 3, 2017, the Clerk of the House of Delegates indicated that he would not publish two of my five item vetoes, those related to Item 306 JJJ.4 and Item 436, considering them invalid under the Constitution of Virginia.

Frustrated by my successful veto of 120 of their bills, General Assembly members have resorted to legislating through the budget, using the appropriations power to change existing law in Virginia. This is an abuse of legislative power and a violation of the Constitution of Virginia. Moreover, the House Clerk’s refusal to publish actions taken by the Governor is a profound abuse of authority, purporting to endow an unelected ministerial officer with some extraconstitutional power to override the Governor’s vetoes based on his own legal opinions. This is entirely improper, and it must be addressed in a manner reflective of the seriousness of the issues involved—keeping Virginia’s fiscal house in order.

Accordingly, I will use my authority under the Constitution of Virginia and as the Chief Planning and Budget Officer of the Commonwealth to bring clarity to Virginia’s budget.

Executive Agencies to Recognize Item Vetoes
As of the date of this Order, all Executive Branch agencies are hereby ordered to recognize and abide by the item vetoes I submitted to the Clerk of the House of Delegates on April 28, 2017, the date the newly-enacted budget became effective. All of these actions were legal, valid, and within the constitutional authority granted to the Governor under Article V, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia. Moreover, the provision in Item 125 that delegates to three members of the General Assembly the power to decide whether money is appropriated to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership or not is clearly unconstitutional and unenforceable. I append to this Order a copy of the communication of my actions to the General Assembly, which constitute the final action on the current biennial budget.

All language stricken by my vetoes, including Item 306 JJJ.4 and the additional language purportedly added to Item 436, are null and void, and of no legal effect whatsoever. Additionally, as noted in my communication to the House, I consider Item 125.R.3 unconstitutional and unenforceable, and I order the Comptroller not to abide by its terms.

Effective Date of the Executive Order
This Executive Order shall be effective upon its signing and shall remain in force and effect until rescinded by further executive order.

Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, this 12th day of May, 2017.