OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Thursday, June 08, 2006 :::

McDonnell on the Budget

Attorney General Bob McDonnell held his press conference on the state budget today. Perhaps most notable, aside from his legal opinion that the Governor lacks the constitutional authority to spend monies in the absence of legislative appropriations, is his call for the passage of a stop-gap budget measure:

Should a comprehensive biennial budget not be passed promptly, I urge the members of the General Assembly to enact legislation recommended by this office to ensure that the next state payroll is met and to keep our state government operating in a constitutionally sound manner. If approved by the General Assembly, this bill would provide for the lawful funding of government obligations and services into the next biennium. This short-term, spending bill is meant to bridge the gap between the expiration of our current budget on July 1, and legislative approval of the comprehensive biennial budget for 2006-2008. This action will avoid the possibility of an historic undermining of the cherished separation of powers established in Article I, Section 5, of the Virginia Constitution, and ensure that only the General Assembly exercises legislative appropriations authority. This is a short-term solution that will work to keep government running, and provide some certainty to local governments, state employees, and other concerned parties. And let me be clear, while a one-time 30 day extension of the budget would be far inferior to the passage of a comprehensive biennial budget, it is far superior to a constitutional crisis, executive branch usurpation of legislative authority, and a disruption in government services. (bold in original)

I'm still not entirely sure of the constitutionality of any actions the Governor may take in the absence of an approved budget. It would seem the only real way to resolve such a matter would be through litigation -- which would serve no one, except those who wish to discover just what powers a governor has if the legislature cannot pass a budget.

As to McDonnell's proposal for a stop-gap budget...I'm not sure about that either. It makes some sense, in that it would give the legislators additional time to work out their differences. And it might avoid a constitutional crisis. But it might also set a bad precedent, encouraging future legislatures to resort to band-aid budgets whenever future crises -- whether real or manufactured -- just happened to arise.

It's far better for them to face the deadlines and the consequences for failing to meet them than to create an escape hatch.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 6/08/2006 1 comments


"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

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