Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) used his “line-item” veto power to veto part of a legislatively-passed law regarding public school funding. His veto authority actually is less a line-item veto authority than it is a words and phrases veto authority.
Evers, a Democrat, used his veto pen Wednesday to strike out text intended to increase funding for the 2024-25 school years, crossing out the “20” and the hyphen. The updated language allows K-12 schools to raise their revenue per student by $325 a year until 2425.
Lucas Vebber, Deputy Counsel for the Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty, says his organization is considering suing the State over the governor’s inherently undemocratic move.
Evers’ move was assuredly undemocratic, but existing law allows the move. Vebber expanded on his beef, and with that expansion, he has a case—and with that case, he may be able to get the law struck down as unconstitutionally (under Wisconsin’s constitution) vague.
Here you have the people who elected the legislature and are represented here in Wisconsin, in the Senate Assembly to write laws, have written a law they intended. The governor’s veto makes it something completely different.
In Wisconsin, as in each of our States and at the Federal level, it’s the legislature that writes the law(s). A governor’s authority, in this context, begins and ends with signing the legislature’s bill into law or vetoing it. Or, as is the case in a few States, a governor’s authority can include vetoing specific parts of the bill and signing the rest into law. Wisconsin allows a governor to veto words and phrases. However, in no State is a governor allowed to rewrite the bill before signing it.
That’s what Evers has done with his carefully chosen words and phrases veto: he’s rewritten a one-year funding law into a 400 year funding law, and that is plainly unconstitutional. Evers’ move also illustrates how flexible is a Wisconsin governor’s words and phrases veto authority: it’s so flexible as to be too vague to pass muster.
The matter likely will end up in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Unfortunately, that court has an activist liberal Justice majority.