Gov. John Bel Edwards scoffed at lawmaker's efforts to reign in his spending powers and killed a handful of pet projects in conservative legislators' districts in a dozen vetoes to Louisiana's budget blueprint Wednesday night.
Edwards has the extraordinary power of the line-item veto, allowing him to pick-and-choose what to ditch without rejecting an entire bill. The Legislature could decide to override his vetoes in their final day in session Thursday, but that would require a two-thirds majority of both chambers.
The Democratic governor nixed nearly $1.8 million in local projects. That included a $400,000 appropriation for a utility substation in Erath, home of Rep. Blake Miguez, the House Republican majority leader. Edwards earlier this week vetoed legislation from Miguez that would have forbidden private contributions from defraying election costs.
Edwards also removed $1 million for roads in Winn Parish, where House Conservative Caucus Chairman Jack McFarland and another conservative lawmaker, Gabe Firement, live. McFarland attributed the veto to his newly minted role leading the lower chamber's right flank.
"This is what happens when you get into leadership in the Conservative Caucus," McFarland said. "Obviously he's not happy about my philosophy. It's inevitable."
The governor also did away with three projects in Republican Rep. Danny McCormick's district. That included $75,000 for street improvements in Plain Dealing, $26,000 for signage in Greenwood and $50,000 for recreational improvements in Bossier Parish.
Edwards also did away with four provisions that would have given the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget — a panel of lawmakers from both chambers — more oversight over state government spending. In one of the veto notes, Edwards said a provision would violate the separation of powers under Louisiana's Constitution.
House Appropriations Chairman Jerome "Zee" Zeringue, a Houma Republican, said that passing the budget early in the session likely saved it from being cut by the governor further. Lawmakers sent the bills to the governor just under two weeks ago, giving them one day left in session to consider a veto override.