Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Twists and Turns

So in the latest, but not wholly unexpected, twist, the Governor today announced his intention to veto $500 million in 'pork and other non-essential spending' in order to increase 'healthcare security for half a million people.' In my last post, I discussed my thoughts on member initiative projects, so I won't rehash that here.

Two things strike me as odd about this turn of events.

First, while the Governor clearly has the authority to line item veto spending measures, I do not believe that he has the authority to reappropriate those funds elsewhere.

One way that I think that he might try to do this (and I'm simply thinking out loud here, sort of) is via an agency reorganization. This would be an extraordinarily convoluted means of attempting to reach his goal, and I'm not sure that it would work in any event, but I just can't think of another means by which he could do it. (Another reason that this wouldn't make sense is that, if I am interpreting this section correctly, the House could nullify the Executive Order with a simple majority.)

For your reference, here is the Section that I am referring to.
The Governor, by Executive Order, may reassign functions among or reorganize executive agencies which are directly responsible to him. If such a reassignment or reorganization would contravene a statute, the Executive Order shall be delivered to the General Assembly. If the General Assembly is in annual session and if the Executive Order is delivered on or before April 1, the General Assembly shall consider the Executive Order at that annual session. If the General Assembly is not in annual session or if the Executive Order is delivered after April 1, the General Assembly shall consider the Executive Order at its next annual session, in
which case the Executive Order shall be deemed to have been delivered on the first day of that annual session. Such an Executive Order shall not become effective if, within 60 calendar days after its delivery to the General Assembly, either house disapproves the Executive Order by the record vote of a majority of the members elected. An Executive Order not so disapproved shall become effective by its terms but not less than 60 calendar days after its delivery to the General Assembly.
(Source: Illinois Constitution.)

The other thing that I find interesting is in Sen. Jones position and statement. There was a reported understanding among the leaders to stick together on the budget vote and any subsequent veto overrides. So Emil's standing with the Governor on this issue today would appear to be an outright 180 degree flip on the other leaders. Going back on an agreement is never good form, that truism is magnified exponentially under the dome.

More substantively interesting is the Senate President's statement in the press release:

“The Governor has said he would not sign a budget that did not include his priority of health care. The four leaders knew the risk of negotiating an operating budget without the Governor in the room – I suggest today that I understand why the Governor is making this decision and I commit to working with him to fund health care within the operating budget that is on his desk.” said Senate President Emil Jones, Jr.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that sounds like he is resigned to working solely within the present budget framework, by moving dollars around. It appears to signal a complete retreat from any significant new source of funding for healthcare.

There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that it was a Kafkaesque, but ingenious, way to put $500 million into expanded healthcare programs in our state. The second is that, if this is what the Governor truly wanted all along, he probably could have gotten it done in May. $500 million is a long way from the $8 billion GRT that he had thrown out there earlier.

Either way, there is sure to be enough spin on all sides of this latest development to create a new ride at the State Fair.

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