Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell rebuffed lawmakers Monday who hoped to add legislative oversight to a new pot of money set aside in case the state is slammed by another round of federal budget cuts.
McDonnell rejected the lawmakers' attempted interference as he signed the state’s $85 billion two-year spending plan just weeks before the new fiscal year starts July 1.
McDonnell said a new 10-member committee lawmakers set up to watch over about $50 million Federal Action Contingency Trust was “unconstitutional.” McDonnell created the fund by setting aside $30 million in the current budget and $20 million in the new budget to help the state survivie should Congress fail to stop more than $1 trillion in automatic budget cuts facing the federal government.
In a letter to lawmakers, McDonnell said the legislature's commission treaded on his executive powers. He kept the committee in place, but only in an advisory role.
“Nonetheless, it is my full intent to work very closely with the legislature and the commission to fully evaluate any expenditures from this new FACT fund ... so that we have a collaborative process for addressing challenges created by the necessary reduction in federal spending,” McDonnell wrote.
It's a rare move for a Virginia governor to declare a budget provision unconstitutional, though former Gov. Doug Wilder, a Democrat, did it twice, said Finance Secretary Ric Brown.
Lawmakers inserted the provision in the budget to keep McDonnell from spending the money without General Assembly approval.
McDonnell also vetoed an amendment that would have prevented him from allocating budget surpluses for road repairs, insisting it contradicted a pair of laws legislators approved this year that give him that very authority.