How the Budget Could Become Law Without Gov. Wolf’s Signature

Yesterday, Governor Wolf announced that the bipartisan, compromise budget will become law. If a revenue package were already on the governor’s desk, he would have been proud to sign it. If a revenue package is passed before midnight on Monday, he would be equally as proud to sign it then.

But if the General Assembly fails to pass a responsible revenue package by tonight, this bill will become law without his signature. Here’s how that happens:

The Constitution, which supersedes any existing law, presents the governor with the ability to affirmatively allow or prevent a bill to become law by taking specific action.

The General Assembly has the duty in Article 8, Section 13 of the Constitution to ensure the revenues are there to meet the spending that they appropriate. The exact words of the Constitution are: “Operating budget appropriations made by the General Assembly shall not exceed the actual and estimated revenues and surplus available in the same fiscal year.”

Article IV, Section 15 of the Constitution does not “require” the governor to sign, fully or partially veto the general appropriations bill. Therefore, anyone who indicates the governor “must” line item veto the bill to bring it into balance with the estimated revenue is incorrect.

The provisions that require the governor to blue-line revenues envision that the governor will at least partially approve the bill. Taking no action is not any form of approval.

Therefore, the General Appropriations bill becoming law without the governor’s signature is constitutional.

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