HARRISBURG — House Republicans said Friday they will force votes next week to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget bill veto, one piece at a time, despite questions about the constitutionality of what they plan to do.
House Majority Leader Dave Reed told members of his caucus that he will call up elements of the vetoed budget bill that would authorize funding at a similar level to what Wolf supports.
“An override vote on these lines would be the quickest and most efficient way to get agreed-to, needed funds to these schools and agencies without additional costs,” wrote Reed, R-Indiana.
Republicans will hold a 119-to-84 majority after five newly elected members are sworn in, which means they would need at least 17 Democrats for the two-thirds majority required to send an override to the Senate.
House Minority Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, predicted few, if any, of his members will cross lines, even if “no” votes could be used to argue the Democrats were against funding for educational and human services programs they actually support.
“This is a political move, is all it is,” Dermody said. “They think they can make some political hay by making us vote against some of these folks.”
Dermody and a Wolf spokesman called the line-item veto override unconstitutional, and a law professor who teaches a course on the state constitution agreed.
“You cannot use the override provision on portions of a bill unless the governor has line-item vetoed,” said Duquesne University professor Bruce Ledewitz. “You can only use the override on part of the bill if the governor has vetoed a part of the bill.”
House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the Legislature has “the same authority as the governor” — giving them line-item override capacity even if Wolf didn’t use the line-item veto.
“I can’t imagine (Democrats) voting no. I can’t imagine them withholding money from these agencies,” Miskin said. “So no, it is not theater.”
Pennsylvania is nearly two months into its new fiscal year without a legal spending plan in place, after Wolf vetoed the entire budget soon after it was passed in late June with only Republican support.
Talks to resolve the impasse have moved slowly, with the most recent development this week being Republicans offering more money for public schools in return for ending the traditional benefit in Pennsylvania’s two big public employee pension systems. Wolf has said he plans to respond.
Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said the line-item override vote plan shows Republicans are not serious about making a budget deal.
“It’s not constitutional, it’s a waste of time, and it’s really a disservice to the people of Pennsylvania,” Sheridan said. “It’s time for them to get real and come to the table and have an actual negotiation.”
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