California’s Newsom Relies on Veto Authority to Manage Budget Concerns

Of 1,046 bills sent to the governor this year, 156 were vetoed, with 50 containing veto statements regarding the state’s budgetary priorities
California’s Newsom Relies on Veto Authority to Manage Budget Concerns
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in Los Angeles on Nov. 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Travis Gillmore
10/22/2023
Updated:
12/30/2023
0:00

After being forced to overcome multibillion-dollar deficits during budget negotiations earlier this year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed dozens of bills this month, saving taxpayers billions of dollars.

Of 1,046 bills sent to the governor this year, 156 were vetoed, with 50 containing similarly worded veto statements regarding the state’s budgetary priorities and another handful mentioning funding concerns as a reason for rejection.

The vetoed bills added up to nearly $19 billion in additional spending.

Outlining cost as a primary reason for rejection, the governor reminded lawmakers of the $30 billion shortfall that the Legislature sought to overcome with budget negotiations earlier this year, prioritizing achieving such without sacrificing core functions or public services.

“With our state facing continuing economic risk and revenue uncertainty, it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications,” Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, wrote in the veto letters.

Some Republican lawmakers welcomed the efforts to protect the budget and limit spending.

“After signing this year’s budget that avoided real spending cuts to address our declining revenues, it is good to see the Governor show fiscal restraint in many of his vetoes that avoid new spending,” Sen. Roger Niello (R-Fair Oaks) told The Epoch Times by email on Oct. 17. “If revenues continue to decline, I hope he and the majority party show real fiscal discipline by truly adjusting spending down to actual revenues.”

Others said they wish that more bills had gotten the governor’s ax.

“It’s a shame more bills weren’t vetoed,” Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) told The Epoch Times by email. “California continues to dig a financial hole that will only end in more tax increases and residents leaving for less burdensome states.”

He said two such bills, one to develop offshore wind projects and another to raise health care workers’ minimum wage to $25 per hour, should have also been vetoed, with the former’s costs slated to be borne by taxpayers while the latter could potentially cause some hospitals and medical facilities to shut down.

But Mr. Newsom did show some restraint with others, he said.

“Newsom carefully picked winners and losers,” Mr. Dahle said. “Thankfully, [another bill] was vetoed as [it] would’ve forced California businesses to pay unemployment to striking workers, straining the already overdrawn system.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs multiple bills stated to help with California's homeless crisis, in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs multiple bills stated to help with California's homeless crisis, in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The rejection of that bill—Senate Bill 799, introduced by a number of Democrat authors and co-authors—received mixed opinions from lawmakers and voters.

“[Gov. Newsom] needs to stand with organized labor when it matters—not just at press conferences and staged events where he pays us lip service,” the Teamsters union wrote on Oct. 14 on X, formerly known as Twitter. “California union members deserve to know which side he’s on.”

Other progressive measures prompted emotional responses from some supporters, with several bills vetoed, for example, that would have provided costly benefits to disadvantaged communities and illegal immigrants by expanding eligibility and grant opportunities.

“I thought he was an ally,” one of several Californians upset about some of the vetoes posted on X.

While the Legislature has the authority to override vetoes with a two-thirds majority vote in both the Assembly and Senate, such hasn’t occurred since 1980, when it overturned then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s vetoes for two bills and eight budget item proposals.

Legislative records currently show dozens of bills for which taking such action is being considered by lawmakers, though no timelines for reconsideration were provided.

More than 80 percent of the bills vetoed this year were authored by Democratic members of the Legislature, with several lawmakers and supporters expressing surprise and frustration in public statements.

“Governor Newsom set us back in the fight for sexual health and equity with the veto of SB 541,” Sen. Caroline Menjivar (D-Panorama City) said in a statement posted on Oct. 9 on X after a bill designed to provide free condoms to students at public schools was denied. “Governor Newsom stated this veto is based on funding, but California has extensive funding for STI [sexually transmitted infections] prevention, community partners are ready and able to provide condoms to these programs in their service areas, and we spend millions of dollars on STI health care annually when prevention costs far less than treatment.”

Others saw the veto, again due to funding concerns, of a redistricting bill as a slight to democratic functions.

“We are disappointed by Mr. Newsom’s veto of Assembly Bill 1248, which would have [empowered] the people,” Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California, a nonprofit civil rights organization, wrote on X on Oct. 13. “We will continue to fight for transparency in the district line-drawing process because Californians deserve fair maps that protect our representation in various levels of government.”

The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The governor’s veto rate for 2023—at just under 15 percent—matches that of last year, when the projection of fiscal difficulties led to his cautious trimming of proposals that would have increased spending, which additionally prompted his suggestion that lawmakers consider proposals that require significant spending in budgetary negotiations as opposed to the legislative process.

“With our state facing lower-than-expected revenues over the first few months of this fiscal year, it is important to remain disciplined when it comes to spending, particularly spending that is ongoing,” Mr. Newsom wrote in veto letters in 2022. “Bills with significant fiscal impact ... should be considered and accounted for as part of the annual budget process.”

Legislators and the governor can include line items while drafting fiscal year budgets that fund programs and initiatives—effectively allowing some vetoed bills to be reconsidered in a different form during such negotiations.

Analysts warned late last year that economic indicators suggested a slowdown in statewide investments and sales taxes. Follow-up reports released by the nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisory group on Oct. 3 confirm that those trends have continued—with some suggesting that the state entered a recession in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Further complicating matters for California is the delay in receiving personal and corporate income taxes, with the due date moved from April 15 to Nov. 16 this year due to emergency declarations issued after winter storms affected the state.

With economists expecting about $52 billion in taxes, if the amount collected is lower than anticipated, budget revisions would be required to match revenues, according to analysts.

Since 1967, the rate of vetoes has varied depending on the makeup of the Legislature. The years with the least number occurred under Mr. Brown, the former governor, with 30 rejections in 1982, representing a veto rate of 1.79 percent, the lowest recorded.

Situations in which Republican governors oversaw Democratic majorities in Legislative houses resulted in the highest number of vetoes—with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rate of more than 35 percent in 2008 leading the field.

The movie star-turned-politician rejected more than 26 percent of all measures sent to his desk during his seven years in office, signing the lowest average number of bills per year at 784.

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.