Gov. Can’t Reject the Loaf Without Taking Away the Dough

A unanimous six-member Supreme Court ruled today that Gov. Edward G. Rendell may not veto language in an appropriations bill and leave the funding untouched.

The court reversed part of a Commonwealth Court case ruling that Rendell didn’t violate Article IV, Section 16 of the Pennsylvania Constitution when he rejected language defining an appropriation but didn’t disapprove the funding associated with the language.

The appropriation bill at issue in Jubelirer v. Rendell was the General Appropriation Act of 2005, which Rendell approved with seven exceptions. Three of those exceptions were over language in certain sections of the bill and not about the amount of money appropriated. Those sections dealt with Medicaid payments for outpatient services, provisions for closing state police barracks and infrastructure maintenance. The total appropriated under those three sections was a little more than $1 billion.

The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, ruled Rendell couldn’t veto language in the sections regarding Medicaid payments and police barracks but could veto language in the infrastructure section, finding that veto wasn’t solely over language.

“In summary, we hold that Article IV, Section 16 of the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits the governor from effectively vetoing portions of the language defining an appropriation without disapproving the funds with which the language is associated,” Castille said.

He was joined by Justices Max Baer, Thomas G. Saylor, J. Michael Eakin, Debra Todd and Seamus McCaffery.

Read more about the case in Thursday’s Legal.             

~Gina Passarella, Senior Staff Reporter

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