Wisconsin has an unusual policy in its constitution: the line-item veto.
It’s been suggested on occasion that the President of the United States should have this power. I’m sure George Bush would love that. But line-item vetoes are a tragedy for democracy.
What’s a line-item veto? A normal veto lets the executive (the governor or the president) cancel a bill passed by the legislature. Unless the legislature has a sizable majority in favor of the bill, the executive can negate whatever they do. That’s it. Uphold, or negate. The executive doesn’t set policy, it enforces it.
A line-item veto allows the executive to shape policy, by negating parts of laws, not the whole thing. In addition to being an obvious usurpation of the seperation of powers by giving the executive more power, it has even greater consequences. The governor of Wisconsin can remove words, who lines, or cross out entire paragraphs, taking words and numbers from each one, combining them together into a law that suits his interest, completly bypassing the entire legislative process.
With the bipartisan nature of the Wisconsin legislature, overcoming a gubernatorial veto is highly unlikely.
Think I’m exaggerating? Check this out.
This isn’t a partisan issue. Governor Doyle does this all the time, but Tommy Thompson used to too. Given that the political tides in Wisconsin seem to sway back and forth, it seems to me that any right-thinking, long-sighted politician in Madison would want to restore a balance of powers, and curtail the gubernatorial veto. As it is enshrined in the constitution, this would take a state-wide referendum. This would require the consent of the currently ruling political party (the Democrats), and it would be extremely likely to pass a popular referendum.
Of course, right-thinking and long-sightedness seem to be in short supply in our politicians these days.