On January 25, 1984 Ronald Reagan said

Some 43 of our 50 States grant their Governors the right to veto individual items in appropriation bills without having to veto the entire bill.

In 2008, 44 US states have the line-item veto.

  1. Which state introduced the line-item veto between 1984 and 2008?

  2. What was the political motivation for this change?

1 Answer 1


Which state introduced the line-item veto between 1984 and 2008?

Maine established a line-item veto in 1995 through a constitutional amendment. The amendment specifically allows the governor to reduce spending.

Constitution of Maine. Article IV. Section 2-A.
Line-item veto of dollar amounts appearing in appropriation or allocation sections of legislative documents. The Governor has power to disapprove any dollar amount appearing in an appropriation section or allocation section, or both, of an enacted legislative document. Unless the Governor exercises the line-item veto power authorized in this section no later than one day after receiving for signature the enacted legislation, the powers of the Governor as set out in section 2 apply to the entire enacted legislation. For any disapproved dollar amount, the Governor shall replace the dollar amount with one that does not result in an increase in an appropriation or allocation or a decrease in a deappropriation or deallocation. When disapproving a dollar amount pursuant to this section, the Governor may not propose an increase in an appropriation or allocation elsewhere in the legislative document. The Governor shall specify the distinct dollar amounts that are revised, and the part or parts of the legislative document not specifically revised become law. The dollar amounts in an appropriation or allocation that have been disapproved become law as revised by the Governor, unless passed over the Governor's veto by the Legislature as the dollar amounts originally appeared in the enacted bill as presented to the Governor; except that, notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution for dollar amounts vetoed pursuant to this section, a majority of all the elected members in each House is sufficient to override the veto, and each dollar amount vetoed must be voted on separately to override the veto. Except as provided in this section, the Governor may not disapprove, omit or modify any language allocated to the statutes or appearing in an unallocated section of law.

What was the political motivation for this change?

Apparently, there's a long history of line-item veto in Maine legislature. It was proposed, unsuccessfully, 12 times between 1963 and 1993. In 1995, then-governor Angus King finally had enough support to pass the amendment through Congress. The amendment was introduced in parallel with a federal Line Item Veto Act of 1996 which, supposedly, helped to drive the consensus forward.

As it seems, the goal was to give the governor more negotiating power on appropriations. With the line-item veto powers, the governor can force legislators to vote on individual items. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a coherent written statement outlying the motivation for the amendment. So, I'm compelled to resort to oral statements and reports.

Here's an excerpt from a speech on the floor of the House:

Representative WHITCOMB: ...
I think the point that was made, if the Legislature is committed to certain items that deal with a budgetary matter, they ought to be willing to vote for it in isolation. I appreciate the comments from the Representative who's serving his first term on the Appropriations Committee who says that everything that enters in the budget is fully agreed upon by all members of the Appropriations process and approved by all members of the Legislature and the Chief Executive. I would suggest that at least in past budgets that is not always the case. I think that it would not do any of us any harm to see some of the items that appear in a budget or in a piece of legislation that has a financial fiscal note attached to it to come back to this body and to have to be supported by a majority vote in isolation. I think the Representative from Old Orchard Beach has said it well when he said that this is strictly a policy question. It's a decision on the part of the members of this body as to whether we ask the people whether they think a Chief Executive ought to be able to look at a particular part of legislation and call into question the action of the Legislature and make the Legislature vote in the affirmative for that single item. Why should we hide from the task of voting in the affirmative for something that we have approved, perhaps having made a mistake upon or approved in a compromise package that isolated, doesn't look as rosy once it is put in front of us.
Line-item Veto is an appropriate question to ask the people. It doesn't diminish our power one iota. It makes us perhaps even more responsible as a Legislative body and I think that it's something that the people deserve an opportunity to vote upon. I urge your support. Thank you.

From Bangor Daily News article on April 6, 1995 (Line-item veto gaining momentum in Augusta):

“I recognize there are people who have skepticism about the line-item veto, but I think it is a moderate and reasonable proposal,” Sen. Sean Faircloth, D-Bangor, told the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
Faircloth, whose bill has King’s backing, said: “Don’t think of this as something for Angus King, but something that will last 100 or 200 years. I believe if we pass the line-item veto, it will be rarely used and should be rarely used. It is crafted in such a way that it doesn’t alter the fundamental balance of power.”
Later Faircloth said Arkansas and Tennessee have used line-item vetoes virtually identical to the one proposed in his bill for about 100 years without any problems.
Kay Rand, King’s legislative director, said lawmakers shouldn’t think about a line-item veto benefiting King, but as a long-term measure. ... “Putting together a budget is not an easy process and it doesn’t hurt to have a second look.”
Rand cited a study that said states with line-item vetoes generally had lower budget deficits than states without line-item vetos.

  • @J.Doe Thank you! Unfortunately, the article doesn't give a proper citation and I have no way to check which particular study Gov. King's office had in mind. There's a lot of research on the topic, but I couldn't find anything that strongly stable and significant budgetary effect. One paper from 1991 suggests that the item veto has a small and negative impact, especially when parties of the governor and the legislature differ. Apr 24, 2019 at 20:03
  • @J.Doe Other studies with various results: 1, 2, 3, 4 Apr 24, 2019 at 20:06
  • 1
    @J.Doe Authors reached the conclusion that the item veto reduces state spending, but only by a small amount. Extension of the item veto would likely reduce federal spending as well. The negative impact is on spending. Quite obviously, if veto only allows the governor to reduce the deficit, then it's going to be used to cut spending at some point. Apr 24, 2019 at 20:15

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