Washington Gov. Jay Inslee uses a red pen to veto sections of the state operating budget in 2019 at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP File/Ted S. Warren)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee uses a red pen to veto sections of the state operating budget in 2019 at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP File/Ted S. Warren)

Governor’s 12-word veto went too far, Supreme Court rules

Jay Inslee vetoed a single sentence in a transportation budget. The state’s highest court said that wasn’t legal.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee exceeded his authority in 2019 when he vetoed a 12-word sentence in the state transportation budget, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The 7-2 ruling is a win for the Legislature, which sued the governor, asserting Inslee crossed a constitutional line separating his power to veto from its power to legislate when he deleted from the spending plan a sentence regarding grants for transit services.

And the court’s decision affirms a Thurston County judge’s ruling last year that invalidated the vetoes, concluding those actions exceeded the veto powers accorded Inslee as the state’s chief executive.

In Washington, governors can veto entire bills. They also can cross out entire sections of legislation. But they are not authorized to veto less than an entire section.

Inslee cut the line, which deals with grant funding for transit agencies and appears seven times in the document, saying it effectively amended existing law. He contended the state constitution requires such a revision be done with a separate bill.

Lawmakers contended it did not change any existing laws and if the governor had wanted it out, he needed to remove each subsection in which the disputed line appeared.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates

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