Governor’s options

Moments after the Assembly voted to pass the budget put forth by the Democrats, speculation turned to how the governor will react to the spending plan, which numerous Republican lawmakers have labeled unconstitutional.

Christie has four options – he can sign it, veto it outright, conditionally veto it or line item veto it. 

Signing the budget is out of the question as the plan uses a revenue total of $300 million above the amount certified by the governor last week.  State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff Tuesday called the plan unconstitutional because of the overstated revenue, adding that passing the plan would be “irresponsible.”

Should the governor use either a conditional veto or an absolute veto the Legislature could try for an emergency override, which would require 27 votes in the Senate – including at least three Republicans.  Should the override fail, both houses would need to comply with the CV.  

But unless the Democrats were to comply with the CV immediately, the state would shut down while the changes were adopted, a likelihood that most sources were reluctant to consider.

The cleanest option available to Christie is the line item veto, which would allow the governor to remove individual appropriations from the budget and move money around within the plan.  Christie cannot use the line item veto to add anything to the budget, so using the powerful tool only allows him to go so far in crafting a plan he and the GOP can live with. Once the governor takes his red pen to the document, Democrats must wait three days to attempt an override and would need a super majority to be successful.

The line item veto also would head off a government shutdown as the governor would sign the plan into law tomorrow.

Sources on both sides of the aisle were in the dark late Wednesday as to how the governor would proceed. 

“I’m not even thinking about any possibilities (of what the governor might do),” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, who said he was happy to have passed a budget the caucus is proud of.

Three Republican sources said late Wednesday the governor was leaning toward a line item veto, though at least one source said the possibility of the CV was growing.

According to Christie-spokesman Michael Drewniak, the governor has yet to make a decision.

“There is a lot for the Governor to study and review in order to make a determination as to whether the budget can be fixed and brought into balance to fulfill the state’s constitutional obligation,” Drewniak said.  “At this time, the Governor can’t be certain if the remedy is the line item veto or whether he needs to consider sending it back to the Legislature.”

Governor’s options