JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Who has ultimate control over the state budget? That’s at the center of the issues pending in the State Supreme Court. Governor Tate Reeves is appealing a county judge’s ruling that says his partial veto was unconstitutional.
Some CARES Act money is in question because of a lawsuit and now an appeal about how specific the Governor’s veto of budget bills can be.
The Governor partially vetoed House Bill 1782, saying he thought money to a closed hospital amounted to a pet project and said he was unfamiliar with another program included.
“Pulling out a few things can be like a game of Jenga that upsets the whole balance of the structure," explained Mississippi College Law professor Matt Steffey.
There are short and long term impacts at stake. Short term, the Governor’s trying to hold up the money that’s subject to review by the federal government until the court hears the case. On the flip side, the money has to be spent by the end of the year. Long term, it could set a precedent for veto power in the future.
“It’s a civics lesson in our three branches of government," said Steffey. "The legislature passes it. The Governor puts his fingerprints on it, they get in conflict and we turn to the courts to resolve it.”
The Governor’s attorney says the House should’ve tried to override the veto if they thought it was unconstitutional. Noting that they did override another partial veto in August.
“The legislators thrust this court into what is clearly a political question that requires policy choices and value determinations by the political branches,” said Michael Bentley.
The attorney for Speaker Phillip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White who sued the Governor says the court’s previous cases allow this action.
“Any time a legislator feels as though his or her vote has undermined by an executive action, Fordice provides that that legislator has standing to bring suit,” explained Andy Taggart.
Taggart argued that the Governor could’ve vetoed the parts of the budget bill designed to go to agencies but says the specific way he did it removed conditions of the spending instead. The chief justice did not give a timeline on when they plan to rule.