UPI Spot News Weekender; Line-item veto on Reagan wish list, again


WASHINGTON -- President Reagan is again asking Congress for power to veto individual items in budget bills, a cost-cutting tool he says most governors already have and that he needs to end 'boondoggles' and pork-barrel spending.

As governor of California, the 'line-item veto' was available to Reagan to keep state lawmakers in check.


But as president, he can only veto entire bills and his repeated requests to Congress for the power to kill specific items within legislation have not been given serious consideration. There is no indication this year that Congress will change its mind.

'Give us the same tool that 43 governors have -- a line-item veto so we can carve out the boondoggles and pork that would never survive on their own,' a determined Reagan said in his State of the Union message.

A survey of states by United Press International reveals use of the line-item vetoes by governors depends on political and economic conditions faced by each governor and his management style.


Two of Reagan's predecessors in California provide good examples.

Former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., a Democrat, went along with budgets passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature, and steered away from the item veto weapon.

But Republican Gov. George Duekmejian has invoked the veto often to wipe out money for programs he opposed in education, health, welfare, labor and the environment.

The line-item veto is 'an extraordinary grant of power to one individual,' said Walter Zelman, the director of Common Cause of California.

'There's a tendency for the legislature to some extent to inflate the budget knowing that Deukmejian will use his fabled blue-pencil,' Zelman said. 'It becomes a question of how high they can raise the budget, rather than negotiating.'

But John Allen, the executive vice president of the Wyoming Taxpayers Association, favors the concept.

'I don't think it's been used used excessively,' Allen said. 'I don't see it as being abused in the state of Wyoming and for the president I think it would be a major step forward.'

According to the White House, only Indiana, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Vermont have no line-item veto provisions.

The UPI survey determined at least four other states -- Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Texas -- also are without the line-item veto. North Carolina is the one state that gives its governor no veto power at all.


Rhode Island Gov. Edward DiPrete supported the idea when it was before the state's Constitutional Convention in 1986, but a proposal never made onto the state ballot.

In West Virginia, the idea has also been brought up in the state legislature, but most lawmakers in Charleston are hesitant to grant their governor the power.

States where the veto can be used have different procedures.

For example, the governor of Minnesota can invoke the line-item veto on any appropriations bill, while the governor of Alabama can slash only the general fund and education budget.

In Ohio, the governor has the veto on appropriations bills, which is intrepreted in the Columbus statehouse to mean any bill with an appropriation in it.

Alaska's chief executive can either cut or eliminate individual items on the state budget.

The governor of Montana can also invoke an 'amendatory veto' in which he returns bills to the legislature with specific instructions for amendments that will win his endorsement.

The line-item veto, itself, is anything but a new idea. In 1904, Kansas voters approved a change in the state constitution granting the governor power to veto specific items in appropriations bills.

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