OLYMPIA, Wash. — State Supreme Court justices are considering whether Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee violated the state constitution when he vetoed single sentences in the transportation budget in 2019.
Lawmakers sued the Democratic governor, claiming he exceeded his authority and trespassed onto their legislating responsibilities by removing a sentence pertaining to grant funding for transit services, The Daily Herald reported Tuesday.
A Thurston County judge invalidated the vetoes last year, concluding Inslee exceeded his veto powers. Alicia Young, a deputy solicitor general representing Inslee, argued against that decision on Tuesday.
Young said that the move was unusual, but was a legal and necessary response to lawmakers’ improper manipulation of the budgeting process. She argued the vetoed sentence would not have otherwise passed as stand-alone legislation.
However, Jeffrey Even, a deputy solicitor general representing the Legislature, argued that the targeted sentence was not a change in law or policy but was a direction on how to distribute certain grant funds. Even also said Inslee would have had to remove the subsections the line appeared in.
The targeted sentence said, “Fuel type may not be a factor in the grant selection process.”
Lawmakers said the sentence ensures that transit agencies that are unable to make an immediate transition to zero-emission vehicles are not disqualified from getting $200 million in grants offered through the state.
Young argued the sentence would amend existing law by changing the rules for the grant selection process.
Justice Debra Stephens questioned Young on whether this wasn’t simply a policy fight, asking what would have happened had the Legislature written that fuel type must be considered as a factor. She also questioned Young on what appeared to be an argument to expand the governor’s power to legislate.
Young said vetoing every proviso is a theoretical possibility but not likely and that lawmakers have the final say as they retain the power to override any veto.
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