Governor Crist’s Tuition Increase Veto

There has been some consternation with Governor Charlie Crist’s veto of the tuition increase for state universities in Florida. Some reports even talk about how the veto could imply that tuition would be free. However, upon closer review, it appears to be much ado about nothing.

First, let’s look at the budget section in question (PDF Here):

The maximum resident undergraduate tuition per credit hour is hereby established for the 2007-2008 fiscal year as follows:

  2007
Summer Term
2007-2008
Fall/Spring Terms
Lower Level Coursework $ 73.71 $ 77.39
Upper Level Coursework $ 73.71 $ 77.39

Now, in Governor Crist’s veto message (PDF here), it says:

Specific Appropriation 156
Pages 51 through 54 – A portion of proviso language

  2007
Summer Term
2007-2008
Fall/Spring Terms
    $ 77.39
    $ 77.39

So that would mean the un-vetoed portion reads:

The maximum resident undergraduate tuition per credit hour is hereby established for the 2007-2008 fiscal year as follows:

Lower Level Coursework $ 73.71
Upper Level Coursework $ 73.71

Seems clear to me that there will, in fact, be tuition next year.

Okay. Let’s look at what the Florida Constitution says about the line item veto.

Article III Section 8(a) reads, in part: “The governor may veto any specific appropriation in a general appropriation bill, but may not veto any qualification or restriction without also vetoing the appropriation to which it relates.

The Supreme Court has indicated that when proviso spells out specific amounts for a given appropriation, as is often the case, then the specific amount is in fact a specific appropriation, even if it’s part of a larger aggreagate line item. However, the Supreme Court is clear on this point: there must be a legislative amount that is vetoed.

In 1999, Governor Jeb Bush attempted to veto a portion of proviso language on an appropriation for extending the school year. In doing so, he vetoed part of the and simply reduced the amount by his estimate of what he had vetoed would be. This is in direct violation of Florida law. The court, in its opinion writes:

… where the proviso language does not identify a sum of money but merely specifies that some unidentified portion of the line item shall be used for particular purposes, the governor is not permitted to veto the language.

As we explained in [Florida House of Representatives v. Martinez, 555 So. 2d 839, 843 (Fla. 1990)], “no matter how accurate the Governor’s monetary estimate [of a proviso] might be,” he may not veto a proviso or portion of a proviso by “supplying his own ‘estimate’ of its monetary cost.” 555 So. 2d at 844. Before the Governor can veto specific proviso language “that language on its face must create an identifiable integrated fund–an exact sum of money–that is allocated for a specific purpose.” Id.

Ah. So there is a potential issue here. It seems that Governor Crist may have overstepped his bounds. There is legal precedent here and the Board of Governors could very well get the Supreme Court to un-veto the tuition increase.

But.

Could it be that the very politically astute Governor did this on purpose?

He vetoes the tuition increase. Gets major kudos from students and their families… then the Board of Governors goes to the Supreme Court and gets their tuition increase after all.

Hmmmmm.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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