Legislative Budget Board Objects To Some Of Gov. Abbott’s Budget Vetoes
The head of the Legislative Budget Board is questioning whether Gov. Greg Abbott had the constitutional authority to veto certain parts of the 2016-2017 state budget. But some political experts are calling the inquiry a power struggle between top brass at the State Capitol.
In a letter sent to Texas Comptroller Glen Hegar, Ursula Parks calls some of Abbott’s line item vetoes invalid, pointing out that the state’s constitution only grants the governor the power to veto parts of the budget concerning actual money. She says what the governor has done is expand his own authority in this instance.
Professor Mark Jones is the executive director for Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
“These are mostly directives, that are directing the funds that could be used for a specific purpose that the governor viewed effectively as stealth appropriations,” Jones explained.
Jones believes Abbott is on pretty strong constitutional footing when it comes to these vetoes. Tyler Sen. Kevin Eltife is one of the legislative members of the LBB who tends to agree.
“Some of what I think is missing here is the governor can reach into agencies as well, some of those agencies he can appoint the executive director or people overseeing them, so he has several ways of stopping a project if he doesn’t want it done. So I think Governor Abbott is well within his right of doing what he did,” Eltife said.
After first calling into question Abbott’s actions with Speaker of the House Joe Straus, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has recently publicly defended them, leaving what Jones calls a power play between the governor and Straus as well as other members of the legislature.
“We have Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick on one side and we have Joe Straus on the other. We’ll see how long Straus wants to be on that side or decide this is a battle he’d rather not fight, Jones said.
Defending the initial request, Jason Embry with the Speaker's Office said, "Legislators have voiced concerns about whether the authority used to make some vetoes this year was consistent with precedent and prior Attorney General opinions."
Embry said the analysis provided by the budget board was initially requested by the Comptroller after question amongst lawmakers began to arise.
"The House will continue to work with the Senate, the Comptroller and Governor to resolve this matter and will take an extensive look at this issue," Embry explained.
The state comptroller will examine the budget items and decide whether or not he wants to weigh in or pass the inquiry on to the court system. But at this point Jones says more than likely the letter challenging Abbott’s veto power is just a warning shot.