The Legislature will not reconvene immediately to try and overturn Governor LePage’s line-item veto of two items in the recently passed budget bill.
The rules regarding line-item vetoes allow the Legislature to reconvene “with consent of the majority of the members of the Legislature of each political party, all Members of the Legislature having first been polled.”
According to a letter (see below) sent to democrat leadership from Senate President Kevin Raye (R) and Speaker of the House Bob Nutting (R), “two-thirds of them [republicans] have declined to consent convening the Legislature.”
Not surprisingly, the majority of democrats, the letter notes, voted to convene the Legislature to try and overturn the governor’s vetoes.
Governor LePage vetoed two line-items, one regarding general assistance, the welfare money given to towns from the state to handout. LePage’s original plan called for more substantial changes to the general assistance program, with LePage saying that the welfare program, “like most other [welfare programs], has gotten out of control.”
The other veto stopped the use of Medicaid money to fund the costs of housing people involuntarily in mental institutions, for instance in the case of a criminal defendant. LePage said that federal Medicaid funds are not allowed to be used to fund the stays of this type of population.
With a constitutional five-day window for the Legislature to overturn line item vetoes, this would indicate that the changes LePage made to the budget package will stand. The Legislature will convene again as scheduled on May 15. They will be back in session to work on additional supplemental budget.
Reports note that this is the first time since the line-item veto was put in place constitutionally by voters in 1995 that a Governor has used it. That’s not surprising considering that up until this point democrat Governors have worked almost exclusively with democrat majorities in the legislature, ushering through many majority budgets that all democrats agreed on, with little republicans could do but sit and watch.
However, in this republican controlled legislature, after weeks and months of capitulation by the Appropriations Committee and the full body, many republicans have moved in the direction of democrats on several budget items the Governor proposed, leading to the line-item veto showdown.
Expect the political rhetoric to heat up. Democrats are already calling republicans “flipfloppers” and calling them out “for a lack of courage” according to statements by Representatives Barry Hobbins (D) and Seth Berry (D).
Read the full letter from President Raye and Speaker Nutting below: