AIDS PROJECT LOS ANGELES TO CHALLENGE CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR OVER UNCONSTITUTIONAL LINE-ITEM VETOES
Agency, the state's hardest hit by "blue pencil" vetoes, contends governor violated constitutional authority; community leaders to discuss next steps at downtown rally tonight.
AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) announced that it intends file suit against California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the ground that his line-item vetoes of the state Legislature's July budget revision bill are unconstitutional. The governor "blue penciled" state funding for a range of safety-net programs, including more than $80 million from California's HIV/AIDS portfolio. Leading international law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP will represent APLA on a pro bono basis.
"The governor has placed at risk the lives of many thousands of Californians who depend on these vital HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs," said APLA Executive Director Craig E. Thompson. "In doing so, he has overstepped his constitutional authority and left no other option."
APLA's programs--including those that provide in-home care to seriously ill, HIV-positive L.A. County residents and those that offer HIV prevention education to Angelenos at highest risk of HIV infection--stand to lose a total of more than $1.8 million as a result of Schwarzenegger's cuts. The agency is the hardest hit statewide.
In late July, Schwarzenegger "blue lined" state general fund support for all HIV/AIDS programs except HIV epidemiology and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), leaving the state's Office of AIDS with only 20 percent of its funding for programs like HIV education and prevention, HIV counseling and testing, home health and early intervention. These were among more than $485 million in cuts made to the state's health and human services portfolio.
"In exceeding his power, the governor has singlehandedly dismantled a critical array of programs that protect the health of all Californians -- programs that ultimately save the state from far more catastrophic spending," Thompson said. "The effects will be nothing short of devastating."
In a written opinion commissioned by state legislative leaders, the California Legislative Counsel Bureau agreed with advocates, finding that the cuts "did not constitute a valid exercise of [Schwarzenegger's] line-item veto authority granted by... the California Constitution."
Advocates and the Counsel argue that the governor only has "blue pencil" authority over original budget appropriations. Schwarzenegger, however, made the latest cuts to Assembly Bill 1, which only "reduced the amount of an existing appropriation previously authorized" by the Legislature in February, the Counsel contends.
The governor is "not granted new expenditure authority, nor is a state officer's expenditure authority extended in any way by an item or section of a bill that solely makes a reduction of an existing appropriation," the Counsel's memo notes. Assembly Bill 1 was passed by a simple majority in the Legislature--not a two-thirds vote mandated for original appropriations that are subject to the blue pencil.
"The California Constitution provides important safeguards to prevent a single elected official from circumventing the entire legislative process," Thompson added. "We're confident that the courts will agree."
Community leaders will gather at an evening rally and march tonight in downtown Los Angeles to protest the illegal cuts and to discuss the suit.
AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), one of the largest non-profit AIDS service organizations in the United States, provides bilingual direct services, prevention education and leadership on HIV/AIDS-related policy and legislation. Marking 25 years of service in 2008, APLA is a community-based, volunteer-supported organization with local, national and global reach. For more information, visit www.apla.org.