“I object to the infringement on gubernatorial power and duties,” wrote Governor Walker in his veto message. By his budget vetoes he made it clear he did not want legislative oversight.
The governor removed at least 15 portions of state law passed by the legislature that provided legislative authority or provided oversight of the executive branch.
Remember your 4th grade civics class lessons about the delicate balance of powers between the three branches of government – the governor (and executive agencies,), the legislature, and the judiciary. The power of the people lies in the power of their elected officials. The peoples’ representatives are their most direct line of power. When legislative power is undermined, so is the power of the people.
The governor began the budget process by taking away powers given to the people and the legislature. For example, the citizen board members of the Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture lost all their policy-making powers in the governor’s budget. The legislature lost its oversight of state building projects in the governor’s changes to the Building Commission. The people lost budget restrictions in the governor’s gutting of the cost-benefit analysis requirements. These powers were all restored in action by the legislature.
However, through his vetoes, the governor again limited the power of the people through their legislature. For example, the legislature held onto funds the governor put in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) budget. The very troubled jobs agency was to submit policy changes to the legislature. Presumably, those funds could be released funds if the budget writing committee members were satisfied progress was made. The governor took the funds set aside by the budget committee through his veto pen.
The budget writing committee made changes in the requirements for agencies writing budgets – requiring more information be sent to the legislature on budget options. Lawmakers also set executive restrictions on short-term debt. The use of this type of debt (known as ‘commercial paper’) has long been unrestricted by lawmakers and invisible to the public.
The governor vetoed both of these common sense budget oversight provisions.