Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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July 29, 1996


In accordance with the provisions of Section 43-1-4 of the General Laws, I am transmitting herewith, with my disapproval, 96-H-7765, "An Act Relating to Public Finance - State Budget."

For over sixty (60) years through sixteen (16) different Democratic and Republican Governors, the Chief Executive of the State has possessed the "power to reduce or suspend appropriations for any or all departments" when necessary to ensure that the State's budget remains balanced. R.I. Gen. Laws § 35-3-16. This Act attempts to abrogate this critical gubernatorial function by repealing the statute. Elimination of this authority, however, would violate the Rhode Island Constitution. Moreover, it is fiscally imprudent and impairs the ability of the Chief Executive to manage state government.

Article V of our Constitution distributes the powers of the government into three departments: the legislative, executive and judicial. The legislature's plenary powers include the authority to appropriate. The Governor has, among other constitutional mandates, the express constitutional duties to faithfully execute the laws, to present an annual budget and to maintain a balanced budget. R.I. Const. Art. IX, §§2, 15 and 16.

Since at least 1935 the Executive has possessed the means to effectively manage state government and to keep the state budget balanced. Paramount among longstanding gubernatorial powers is the authority to reduce or suspend appropriations when necessary to maintain balanced state spending and revenue- The Governor's duty to present a budget (Art. IX, § 15) was formally constitutionalized in 1986 and the balanced budget mandate (Art. IX, § 16) in 1992. When the voters adopted these constitutional amendments, the statutory budgetary scheme upon which these amendments were predicated had operated successfully for over half a century. The Governor's constitutional role regarding necessary budgetary reductions and suspensions is integral to the balance of powers and is inviolate. Repeal of R.I. Gen. Laws § 35-3-16 would prevent the Governor from exercising his constitutional authority and fulfilling his constitutional obligation to effectively manage state government and to maintain a balanced budget throughout a fiscal year.

Moreover, the Executive's power to reduce or suspend appropriations does not intrude on the legislature's dominion over making appropriations or its co-extensive authority to reduce spending. The terms of R.I. Gen. Laws § 35-3-16, which this Act abolishes, specifically require a detailed, written preliminary notification by a Governor to the general assembly of a proposed suspension and the reasons therefor. Should the general assembly leadership object, they can express those concerns to the Governor before the suspension occurs, or alternatively, can pass a bill to restore or shift funding. This balanced framework of powers has worked effectively and regularly for over 30 (thirty) legislative sessions. It is a fixture in the fiscal management of our State. A reversal would endanger the structural integrity of the budget balancing process and weaken the constitutional budgetary framework that has served Rhode Island for over six decades.

This proposed repeal also creates practical problems. Timely executive decisions will be undermined and fiscal emergencies exacerbated by the need to summon 150 legislators to special sessions. The delays inherent in the deliberative process are inconsistent with emergency management and financial responsibility. While the legislature can ultimately choose cuts in areas different than those made by the Governor, a Governor must have the ability to make the difficult, but necessary, fiscal choices in the first instance on short notice.

Another practical pitfall of this legislation is a potential adverse impact on Rhode Island's credit and ability to attract investment. The gubernatorial power to maintain a constitutionally required balanced budget is an important control mechanism for maintaining fiscal stability.

For these reasons, I disapprove of this bill and affix my veto thereto. I urge your support of this action.


Lincoln Almond