Will San Francisco -- and other cities -- get that money back? Perhaps. Diane Boyer-Vine, the state's legislative counsel -- basically the lawyer for the legislature -- on Wednesday issued this opinion stating she believes Schwarzenegger's vetoes to be unconstitutional.
Here's her rationale put as simply as we can do it. An "appropriation" is, essentially, the authorization of taking some money from the treasury, and spending no more than the agreed-upon amount on a specific purpose. And when the legislature sends the governor a bill with appropriations in it, he has three options: Sign it, veto it, or reduce the appropriation.
Boyer-Vine, however, believes that AB 4X1 -- last month's budget revision bill -- didn't have any "appropriations" in it. It simply reduced and altered the appropriations approved when the budget originally passed in February; no money was being taken from the treasury. Yet Schwarzenegger's line-item vetoes cut out items entirely -- which Boyer-Vine believes he was not entitled to do. If he wanted to nix appropriations, he should have done it in February.
Yet while Boyer-Vine and others believe the governor is only entitled to veto new spending, the governor and his people feel they're within the law. And the battle commences.
When asked what might come next, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said things will be more clear on Aug. 17 when the legislature comes out of its recess. Top state Democrats have said that they won't be putting this matter before a judge, but health or public service agencies hurt by the cuts are entitled to do so -- making a lawsuit a mathematical certainty. And getting that $487.2 million back may turn out to be a Democratic obsession.
"We're going to pursue it until we win this one," said Ammiano. Come Aug. 17, "I think [Democrats] will say 'We do not accept these cuts, we are moving forward.' I think what we'll have here is a chess game. But I don't see the legislature, even with the Republican component, backing away from the legislative counsel's advice."