Rep. Black: Democrat to Offer Constitutional Amendment to Limit Governor’s Veto Power

Representative Spencer Black will introduce a constitutional amendment that would limit the power and scope of the Governor’s veto.

Black said “This amendment is an attempt to move beyond the partisan gridlock and political game playing that has stymied efforts to reform the partial veto power for more than three decades. Amendments to our constitution should not be political footballs – they should be thoughtful attempts to improve the functioning of state government.”
Black said the constitutional amendment he will offer is based on the recommendation of the bi-partisan Legislative Council Study Committee on Improving Wisconsin’s Fiscal Management. Black’s proposed amendment to the State Constitution provides that the Governor may not use the veto to create new laws not passed by the Legislature. It would also prohibit the Governor from increasing appropriations beyond what was approved by the Legislature.
“This amendment would eliminate so-called ‘creative vetoes’ that have allowed Governors to single handedly write new laws and make new appropriations. The amendment would restore a true partial veto. The veto was originally intended to be a negative power, a check on the power of the Legislature,” said Black. “Instead, because of the State Supreme Court interpretations, the Wisconsin partial veto now allows the Governor, by creatively deleting words or digits to write new law, to raise taxes or make appropriations without legislative approval.”
“What was originally intended as a check on the power of one branch of government (the Legislature) has instead become an excessive grant of power to another branch (the Governor). The current veto power of Wisconsin’s Governor far exceeds that of any other Governor in the country or of the President,” Black noted. “The Wisconsin partial veto is a deep infringement on the separation of powers designed by our founding fathers,” stated Black.
Black noted that attempts to reform the partial veto have been considered by the Legislature for at least three decades, but dropped as the party control of the Governor’s office has changed. “In the mid seventies, Tommy Thompson led the charge to amend the constitution, but he dropped his support when a Republican (Lee Dreyfus) was elected Governor. Likewise, as Attorney General, Jim Doyle supported reform, he has now dropped his support for an amendment. Interestingly, the Republicans who are now sponsoring an amendment were silent when Tommy Thompson vastly expanded the use of the partial veto in the 80’s and 90’s. I suspect that if a Republican were to win the Governor’s race in 2006, some of the Republican legislators would drop their support for a constitutional amendment like a hot potato.”
Black said three factors that may allow the amendment to move beyond the usual partisan bickering are:
1. It is sponsored by a legislator from the party of the Governor.
2. It is the wording agreed to by a bi-partisan committee after much study and discussion.
3. It would not be effective until a new Governor is sworn in 2011. Otherwise, since an amendment would have to receive second consideration and a referendum vote in the 2007-08 session, the amendment would affect the sitting Governor and become a partisan battleground.
The proposed amendment would add the following language to Article V of the state constitution:
“In approving an appropriation bill in part, the governor may reduce the dollar amount of an appropriation as shown in the bill, but may not increase it.
In approving an appropriation bill in part, the governor may not approve any law that the legislature did not authorize as part of the enrolled bill.”
Press release from Rep. Black’s office
State Capitol P. O. Box 8952 Madison, WI 53708 (608) 266-7521