The Washington state Legislature announced Thursday plans to sue Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, saying he overstepped his authority with a series of one-sentence vetoes in this year’s transportation budget.
Lawmakers said the governor violated the constitutional ban against vetoing less than a full section of legislation. The Democratic-led Legislature plans to file the lawsuit on Friday in Thurston County Superior Court.
In May, Inslee vetoed one sentence at the end of seven provisions of the budget relating to grant funding for transit services that said fuel type could not be a factor in the grant selection process.
In his veto message, Inslee wrote that the requirement was “contrary to, and in direct conflict with” statutory mandates that direct the state Department of Transportation to consider energy efficiency issues, as well as federal and state air quality requirements in selecting programs and projects.
The separation-of-powers issue has been raised in the past, following voters’ 1974 adoption of a constitutional amendment to restrict the governor to vetoing no less than a full section of a bill.
The last time a similar lawsuit was filed by the Legislature against a governor was in 2003, against then-Gov. Gary Locke. According to Senate attorneys, Locke didn’t fight the lawsuit, and he withdrew the vetoes during a one day special session. It was the second time Locke had faced such a challenge. The Supreme Court in 1999 invalidated his veto from a bill from the 1997 legislative session. The high court in 1997 upheld gubernatorial vetoes by then-Gov. Mike Lowry following a legislative challenge from the 1994 session.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit Thursday, Inslee said that he doesn’t believe the issue has been fully settled by the courts. He pointed to his contention that the language needed to be vetoed because it was an attempt to indirectly amend an existing statute. (AP)