Mississippi justices hear dispute over state budget power

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court was hearing arguments Tuesday in a dispute between the governor and top lawmakers over control of the state budget.

A Hinds County chancery judge ruled in September that Republican Gov. Tate Reeves had overstepped his constitutional power by vetoing portions of some budget bills.

House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White sued Reeves in early August, weeks after the governor issued the partial vetoes. Gunn and White — who are also Republican — argued that Reeves was encroaching on legislators’ power to make budget decisions. Their lawsuit said the Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled in multiple cases that the state constitution prohibits a governor from vetoing a portion of a budget bill.

However, Reeves’ attorneys said in written arguments that his partial vetoes were different than those by previous governors because Reeves’ predecessors had tried to veto conditions that legislators put on specific spending plans. They wrote the Reeves vetoed “distinct” parts of spending, not conditions on it.

On July 8, Reeves vetoed parts of two bills to fund state government programs for the year that began July 1.

He vetoed multiple sections of House Bill 1700, the education budget bill, because it did not include nearly $25 million for the school recognition program that provides bonus pay for teachers in public schools that show significant improvement or that maintain high performance.

The other partial vetoes were in House Bill 1782, which allocated federal coronavirus relief money to various agencies.

When legislators were briefly in session in August, they overrode Reeves’ partial veto of the education budget bill. They then passed a separate bill to put money into the school recognition program.

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