State lawmakers will try to stop veto overrides |

State lawmakers will try to stop veto overrides

Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Hoping to avoid future disputes with Gov. Bill Ritter over the state budget, lawmakers promised Tuesday to work with the governor to prevent a repeat of their vote overriding his veto of spending instructions that lawmakers added to the $17.8 billion state budget.

The proposal came after Ritter sent lawmakers a letter last week telling lawmakers the veto override last spring didn’t resolve legal questions over the instructions. Ritter also said he still believes some of the spending instructions, known as headnotes and footnotes, went beyond appropriating funds and infringed on his authority.

The headnotes contain definitions of programs, and the footnotes tell the governor how the Legislature wants the money to be spent.

“It is my sincere hope and belief that in the ensuing months our two branches of government can continue to work together to find an accommodation to this issue, one that resolves this long-standing dispute in a manner that respects and honors the powers and limitations vested in our respective branches of government,” Ritter told lawmakers in the letter.

It was the first time since 1988 that the House and Senate had overridden a veto. The vote was all the more unusual because a Democratic-controlled Legislature overruled a Democratic governor.

The House vote was 61-2. The Senate vote was unanimous. A two-thirds majority in each house is required for an override.

The override was the latest skirmish in a long-running battle between the Legislature and a succession of governors over control of state spending.

At issue were 88 notes lawmakers added to the budget containing instructions on how they wanted the money spent.

Lawmakers said they had a constitutional duty to draw up the budget and decide where the money should be spent. When he vetoed the spending instructions, Ritter said lawmakers had no right to tell him what to do.

The state Supreme Court issued a split decision on the conflict in June 2006, saying GOP Gov. Bill Owens did not have the authority to veto headnotes and that lawmakers didn’t have the authority to tell state agencies how to spend their budgets. The court did not rule on footnotes.

Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, said he believes a compromise can be reached on the headnotes if both branches of government can agree on the definition of duties of state employees in individual programs. He said footnotes are a thornier issue because lawmakers and governors in the past have not been able to agree on what instructions are considered guidance, which are legal, and what instructions are considered mandates, which are unconstitutional.

“I don’t know if we can agree on that,” Buescher said.

Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman, said the letter was intended as an olive branch, not a threat.

“We look forward to working with the Joint Budget Committee and the Legislature to resolve these issues in an amicable fashion,” Dreyer said.

In the 1988 override, lawmakers passed a bill to use lottery funds for correctional facilities over the objections of then-Gov. Roy Romer.

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