Every year the Georgia State legislature passes hundreds of bills and sends them to the Governor for his consideration. The Governor can sign the bill into law, veto the bill or do neither and allow the bill to become law without his signature.
This year the Governor decided to veto 22 bills, the most by any Governor in recent memory.
Interestingly, all of the pieces of legislation that the Governor vetoed were passed in both bodies by huge majority votes indicating that the legislative intent was clear. In fact, four of the bills had no nay votes in the legislature and 12 had 5 or less nay votes.
While some states have regularly scheduled post sessions to consider overriding vetoes, Georgia’s legislature must wait till the next year or vote to have a special session before this action can be taken.
The bills that the Governor vetoed included HB 827 and SB 414 that would have expanded eligibility for state and local employees and their dependents to be covered under the state indemnification program. The Governor felt that these bills departed from the original intent of the state programs by substantially broadening the definition of "dependent" and would jeopardize the sustainability of the program by expanding it without identifying additional funding.
The other bills vetoed challenged the "Separation of Powers" between the executive and legislative branches according to the Governor. While some would supposedly diminish the powers of the Executive branch, others, such as SB 374 that would have created a Legislative Economic Development Council composed of members of the General Assembly to oversee the state’s economic development activities, would have violated the constitutionally required separation of powers according to the Governor.
Also vetoed was HB 1023, known as the "Jobs" bill, that would have provided tax credits for employment of unemployed persons, tax credits for "Angel Investors" (start up investors) and, when the state shortfall reserve reached $1 billion, reduced the corporate and individual capital gains taxes.
Citing his signing of a bill that creates a Tax Reform Study committee (of which he will be a member) charged with the task of reviewing all tax policies and proposing changes to the current tax system, the Governor felt that HB 1023 was unnecessary at this time.
But without question the Governor’s veto of SB 1, the Zero-Based Budgeting bill that passed the legislature with 201 yea votes and 0 nay votes, created the most stir among legislators.
Currently, Georgia uses a "continuation" budgeting process where agency expenditures that are approved in the state budget are automatically rolled over, or continued, into the succeeding year’s budget.SB 1 would have imple
mented zero-based budgeting recommendations by requiring 25 percent of the budget to be reviewed in its entirety every four years. Every program would be required to use zero-based budgeting once every four years forcing them to justify all of their expenditures and not just new spending.
The Governor vetoed SB 1 asserting that it would unnecessarily impose new bureaucracy and restrictions on the Executive Branch and that it would require state agencies to administer dual budget processes concurrently, the new and the current process.
Besides, the Governor surmised, zero-based budgeting focuses on the beginning of the budget process and not the end as it should and most states have abandoned this methodology.
He also maintains that under his administration, agencies have been required to list every program they provide in order of importance and to justify the programs and costs associated and points out that the budget has been cut by more than $3.5 billion using this process.
However, having served in the legislature for the past six years and as a member of the Appropriations committee for many of those years, it is clear to me that the "Separation of Powers" as the Governor calls it is nothing more than a turf war.
For many situations, some that I have experienced myself, legislative intent, particularly when it comes to the budget and certain line items, has been totally ignored by state departments and the Executive branch.
Who will hold the power over the budget process?
Will the Governor’s veto of SB 1 and other bills be overridden by the legislature?
Stay tuned- this one is far from over.
Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.