Line-item vetoes have become a touchy subject at the Arizona Legislature. The Legislature recently filed suit against the governor, claiming that her line-item veto of changes to the state's personnel program, violated the Arizona Constitution.
While it's true that the Arizona Constitution gives the governor line-item veto authority, a governor may only do so when considering appropriations. Changing personnel policy is more like a change in public policy and doesn't exactly qualify as an appropriation. The governor insists that this case should be treated as an appropriation because she can "virtually almost put a price tag" on it.
The Arizona Constitution, and subsequent case law, requires something more concrete than a virtual price tag. If every line of legislation could be over-ruled by a line-item veto each time there's a fiscal impact, there would be no meaningful distinction between the legislative and executive branches. This threatens the constitutional principle of separation of powers'"a doctrine essential to ensuring the powers of government remain limited.
By bringing judicial scrutiny to this issue, the Legislature may help restore this fundamental principle enshrined in Arizona's Constitution.