By Associated Press - Wednesday, July 1, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A judge has ruled that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee overstepped his authority with a series of one-sentence vetoes in last year’s transportation budget.

The Herald of Everett reported Tuesday that the decision - a win for the Democratic-led Legislature that filed suit against the Democratic governor last year - was handed down by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy late last week. The ruling invalidates the vetoes of provisions of the budget relating to grant funding for transit services that said fuel type could not be a factor in the grant selection process.

Inslee argued at the time of the veto that it amended existing law by changing the rules for the grant selection process. He contended the constitution requires such a revision be done with a separate bill and not through the budget.

Murphy disagreed, saying that while governors can veto entire bills, complete sections of bills and individual appropriation items, they cannot veto less than a full section unless it can be shown the Legislature acted purposely to circumvent their authority, which, she noted, it did not do in this case.

“We have a system of checks and balances that is vital to the functions of our state and this case was right on the line,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane.

In a written statement, House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, said the it “is helpful for the Legislature to have this legal certainty as it confronts state budget challenges in the weeks and months ahead.”

The governor’s office has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.

“We appreciate the Court’s review of the complex issues in this case, and we are considering our options,” Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee said in an email.

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