CALIFORNIA’S LINE-ITEM VETO TURNS 100
This special edition of Tax Bytes salutes the 100th anniversary of California’s line-item veto, passed by voters in November 1922 as Proposition 12. It grants the governor the authority to reduce or eliminate any item of spending in the state budget. Here are some highlights of the money it has saved taxpayers through the years.
In 1971, Gov. Ronald Reagan proposed a state budget of $6.73 billion, but the Legislature added more spending to it and passed a budget of $7.3 billion. Reagan used the line-item veto to cut $503 million out of the budget before signing it.
During his first five years as governor, George Deukmejian used the line-item veto to cut a total of $3.74 billion of spending that the Legislature added to his proposed budgets.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut $489 million from the state budget in 2009 and was promptly sued by a group that included Democratic state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Schwarzenegger, holding that all spending is subject to the line-item veto.
In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown used the line-item veto to cut $195.7 million from the fiscal year 2012–13 budget that the Legislature sent to him.
According to an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California in 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown’s line-item vetoes during his second stint as governor were averaging about a tenth of one percent of each year’s final budget. Arnold Schwarzenegger (2004–2010) averaged two-thirds of a percent, Gray Davis (1999–2003) and Pete Wilson (1991–1998) about three-quarters of a percent, and Deukmejian (1983–1990) an impressive 2.5 percent. During Brown’s first two terms as governor starting in the 1970s, he averaged about three-quarters of a percent of each year’s budget in line-item vetoes.