Wednesday, June 20, 2001

GOP leaders admit they can't override Taft veto

By Debra Jasper
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Despite a strong attempt, Republican leaders acknowledged Tuesday they have failed to muster enough support to override all 49 of the line-item vetoes Gov. Bob Taft made in the state budget.

        Republicans say they will instead try to override up to a dozen vetoes, perhaps as early as today. They think they have enough votes, for example, to overturn Mr. Taft's veto of a measure allowing nursing homes to leverage more Medicaid money, and to restore about $12 million in federal welfare money for housing programs.

        Lawmakers and advocates say funding for such housing programs is desperately needed to keep the homeless off the streets. But Mr. Taft said he vetoed the measure because Ohio should set aside more money in a contingency fund in case the demand for welfare increases.

        State Rep. Jim Trakas, R-Independence, said lawmakers agreed to restore some of the budget provisions earmarking money for specific purposes, such as housing, because they want more say over spending.

        “It comes down to who decides how to spend the money,” Mr. Trakas said. “We don't think it should be the bureaucrats in Columbus.” Overriding a veto requires three-fifths of the vote in both houses of the legislature. That means 60 people would have to vote for the override in the House, which has 59 Republicans. Twenty people would have to vote for the override in the Senate, which has 21 Republicans.

        House Speaker Larry Householder said there is not enough backing to override Mr. Taft's veto of a controversial provision that shields lawmakers and their staff from testifying or providing information in civil lawsuits.

        He declined to say why support for overriding all 49 line-item vetoes as originally discussed fell off. But Mr. Householder said Mr. Taft's office has called a number of lawmakers in the past week and implied that the governor would withhold support from any fellow Republicans who bucked him.

        The conversations “are very subtle,” Mr. Householder said. When asked whether the governor's staff threatened lawmakers by promising to withhold legislative support or financial support, Mr. Householder replied, “I would say both.”

        Kevin Kellems, spokesman for Mr. Taft, said the staff wanted lawmakers to know the governor carefully weighed his decisions.

        Mr. Kellems said the governor met with Mr. Householder on Tuesday afternoon and discussed ways to compromise on some budget items. He said the details are being worked out.

        Mr. Trakas said lawmakers understand all too well how much power Mr. Taft can wield.

        “You always want to have the governor on your side,” he said.


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