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Gov. Greg Abbott responded to a threat on Friday to veto a section of the state budget that funds the Texas legislature, its employees and legislative agencies.
The governor’s decision to compensate lawmakers comes after House Democrats left the House in the closing days of the regular legislative session, breaking the quorum, to block passage of Senate Bill 7, the Bill on Abbott’s priority election which would have reshuffled voting rights in the state. The move also killed the bail legislation that Abbott had made a priority.
In a statement, Abbott said “funding should not be provided to those who have left their jobs prematurely, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.”
“I therefore oppose and disapprove of these credits,” said the governor.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner of Grand Prairie called Abbott’s decision an “abuse of power” and said the caucus “was exploring all options, including immediate legal options, to retaliate “.
“Texas has a governor, not a dictator,” Turner said in a statement. “The tyrannical veto of the legislature is the latest indication that [Abbott] is just out of control. “
Since Abbott issued his threat earlier this month, other lawmakers and political leaders have raised concerns about the impact the move could have on staff and legislative agencies funded by the article. X, which is the section of the budget it has vetoed, such as the Legislative Reference Library. and the Legislative Budget Council.
“I’m just worried about the impact this is having on them, because they weren’t the ones who decided that we were going to break the quorum, it wasn’t their decision, was it?” House Speaker Dade Phelan R-Beaumont said in an interview earlier this month.
Questions have also been raised about the constitutionality of the ruling, which the Legislative Reference Library says is unprecedented.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who heads the Senate, has expressed support for Abbott’s proposed veto, saying the move could force Democrats to return for a special session.
The biennial budget at hand covers the fiscal year starting September 1. If lawmakers return to Austin for a special session before then, they could pass supplementary estimates to restore that funding.
Legislators are paid $ 600 per month in addition to a per diem allowance of $ 221 each sitting day of the Legislative Assembly, during regular and special sessions.
The Legislature is expected to meet for at least two special sessions, Abbott said in interviews. One, slated for September or October, will focus on redrawing the state’s political maps and distributing $ 16 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds. Prior to that, the governor said he would recall lawmakers to work on the elections and bail bills, as well as a number of other issues he has yet to announce.