Governors, Legislatures, and Budgets: Diversity across the American States

By Edward J. Clynch; Thomas P. Lauth | Go to book overview

Legislative leaders have an interest in protecting the budget base of agencies because projects which are important to individual legislators reside there. At the same time, they seek to restrict the expansion of continuation so that sufficient resources will be available for new projects which are also important to individual legislators.

In years when robust revenue growth permits budget expansion, it is possible to fund fully continuation and still be able to fund new gubernatorial and legislative initiatives. In years of declining rates of revenue growth the costs of continuation tend to restrict new initiatives.


USE OF THE ITEM VETO

The line-item veto is an important weapon available to the governor to defend his budget proposals against legislative additions or changes that the governor believes to be unnecessary or unwise. Although it may seem that the item veto gives the governor undue influence over legislation in violation of the separation of powers principle, especially in those instances where the governor also exerts influence through his prerogative to develop and present the budget proposal, it is nevertheless a formal power of governors in Georgia and forty-two other states. How often is that power used?

During the fiscal years 1974 through 1989, with the exception of one year, governors of Georgia did not invoke the item veto very often. In that period they found it necessary to use it less than four times per year on supplemental and general appropriations bills. In four of those years, the gubernatorial line-item veto was not used at all.

Governor Jimmy Carter invoked the item veto eighteen times in 1975. Prior to the Carter administration, Georgia's governors tended not to use the item veto. Governor Carter's item vetoes during his last year in office represented a major departure from that tradition. The appropriations act for FY 1975 and the amended appropriation act for FY 1974 contained approximately ten new standard object classifications as well as several agency-specific object classifications. The new appropriations format was generally regarded as an attempt to protect legislative intent. Governor Carter opposed this move on the part of the legislature, and vetoed a combined total of eighteen items in the two acts. 25

Since 1975, Georgia governors have exercised item veto power sparingly. Because of the strength of their other budget prerogatives, they have not needed to use it. 26 The General Assembly tends not to take appropriations actions opposed by the governor. Nevertheless, the item veto remains a potential weapon in the budgetary arsenal of the chief executive.


CONCLUSION

The governor of Georgia possesses strong formal budget powers. He has responsibility for fashioning agency requests into a comprehensive set of spending

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