When House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell ruled two of Governor McAuliffe’s line-item vetoes out of order Monday night, he cited the state Constitution and Virginia Supreme Court precedents for doing so.
Those include a 1996 case where then—as now—one major dispute was over budget language about federal funds.
In 1996, General Assembly Democrats and Republican Governor George Allen went to court over line-item vetoes—including one of an amendment that directed Allen to take federal dollars. GOP Senator Bill Stanley said the Supreme Court’s ruling then is the legal foundation for his budget language to stop federally-funded Medicaid expansion without the Assembly.
“The high court basically said that the line-item veto is for appropriated monies. When it comes down to the line-item veto in the budget itself, then it can strike dollar amounts that have been appropriated by the House and Senate. That’s the only use of the line-item veto in the budget bill. Otherwise, the line-item cannot be used for general language that’s contained therein or changes in the law that’s contained in the budget bill.”
In the House, Democratic Delegate Scott Surovell faulted the budget language itself.
“The Stanley language, in fact, is written so broadly, many of us believe that that actually constitutes general law. And a lot of people in here talk about legislating through the budget, don’t legislate through the budget. We shouldn’t do that.”
In a statement, Governor McAuliffe said the Speaker had exercised judicial powers—and he would take the actions that HE deemed best. That’s led to speculation that the dispute may end up in court.