The Commonwealth Court Wednesday issued a ruling upholding the ability of a Governor to line-item veto provisions in a Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 278-- vetoed by Gov. Corbett in 2014.
The Court found provisions related to state funding in the Fiscal Code bill “correlate(d)” with the General Fund appropriations bill, citing appropriations for DCNR reduced by line-item veto in the General Fund bill and a provision line-item vetoed in the Fiscal Code bill.
The Court said, “Specifically designating funds for a particular purpose in the FCA (Fiscal Code) is clearly an “appropriation made by law;” it authorizes the executive branch to use the funds for the means directed.”
Further, the Court said, “While the Governor is not empowered to interfere with the legislative power to craft the purpose and scope of general legislation via a partial veto, he has been empowered with the ability to disapprove of specific items of appropriation in a bill making appropriations of money – that is, he can disapprove of any provision in a bill directing funds to be spent for a particular purpose, thereby exerting a greater influence and measure of control (i.e., his limited legislative authority in the appropriations context) in achieving a budget acceptable to all sides.”
The ruling denies the Senate’s challenge and upholds the ability of a Governor to line-item veto of “items of appropriations” in a Fiscal Code bill.
A copy of the ruling is available online.
The ruling is significant because the General Assembly has piled more and more provisions in Fiscal Code bills directing the executive branch to take actions that could no otherwise pass the General Assembly on their own.For example, this year’s “agreed-to” Fiscal Code bill-- House Bill 1327 (Peifer-R-Pike)-- contains provisions giving the General Assembly extra time to review Pennsylvania’s plan for meeting EPA’s Clean Power Climate Rule, killing the conventional oil and gas regulations on the verge of being finalized by DEP, a $12 million Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund and $22 million for small water and wastewater project funding for the Commonwealth Financing Authority.