Judiciary Committee Examines Budget’s Contingency Language

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The House Finance Committee Wednesday began hearing from the public about the capital budget the Senate passed last night. At the same time, the Judiciary Committee focused on that budget’s contingency language used to protect energy projects from line-item vetoes by Governor Sean Parnell.

Senators put in the protective language in response to threats from the governor that he would veto projects favored by those who blocked passage of a bill reducing taxes on oil companies.  It bundled $450 million in energy-related projects with the statement that if the governor vetoed any single project, the entire bundle would be eliminated.

That contingency language is the major point of friction among all parties in the fight over the budget. Attorney General John Burns said it would effectively eliminate the governor’s veto powers – and there is no question in his mind that would make it unconstitutional.

Director of Legislative Legal Services Doug Gardner told the committee that, while he agrees with much of what the Attorney General had said, there is another side to the issue.  He said the argument shows an imbalance between the legislature’s power to appropriate and the governor’s power to veto.  However, he said the governor still has the ability to accept the bundle – or he can veto the bundle.

There was no action needed as a result of the hearing – it was to educate legislators on the issue.  Lawmakers who haven’t made their minds up over the capital projects budget will have new information on which to base their decisions.

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