Gov. Lynch sets modern veto record
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(CONCORD) With more than a dozen vetoes this week, Governor John Lynch has now vetoed more bills than any New Hampshire Governor in the last quarter century. The Hopkinton Democrat, finishing his fourth and final term in the Corner Office, has also been overturned by the Legislature twice as often as any of his recent predecessors.
The New Hampshire House and Senate will convene to next week to consider whether at least 14 bills should become law, notwithstanding the Governor’s objections. A survey of legislative records going back to 1989 shows that Lynch surpassed the man he beat in 2004 for the Governor with the most vetoes in a single term.
Republican Craig Benson vetoed 21 bills in his single term from 2003 to 2004, and was overturned just four times. Lynch has already vetoed 28 bills this term. The Legislature has overturned eight of Lynch’s vetoes so far. In his first three terms, Lynch saw all 19 of his vetoes sustained.
The higher rate of veto reversals might have been expected, as the Legislature shifted from Democratic control to 3-1 Republican super-majorities following the 2010 election. But past Legislatures haven’t always been more confrontational to Governors of the opposing party, or deferential to Governors of the same party.
Republican Governors Judd Gregg and Steve Merrill were each overturned just once by their Republican-controlled Legislatures, but both were on significant spending bills. In 1992, Gregg lost his veto fight over a supplemental budget as the Legislature chose to borrow $7 million for campus maintenance at UNH over his objection. Capital projects were also at the center of Merrill’s only defeat, as the Legislature overrode his veto of the Capital Budget. Merrill argued the plan spent $13 million more than he recommended to build a new Manchester District Courthouse.
Democrat Jeanne Shaheen didn’t veto a single bill from the Republican-led Legislature in her first term. Democrats took over control of the State Senate in her second term, when she issued 16 vetoes, only three of which were overturned. Republicans took back the chamber for Shaheen’s final term, but failed to override any of the Governor’s 18 vetoes.
Benson set the modern mark both for vetoes and vetoes overturned in his single term, objecting to 21 bills, four of which were overturned. He’s the only Governor to have more than 10% of his vetoes reversed in the past quarter century, until this year.
Like Shaheen, Lynch was slow to pick up the veto pen, objecting to just four bills in his first terms. Democrats swept into both the State House and Senate in 2006, and sustained all four of Lynch’s second-term vetoes, and all ten in his third term.
But last year, Lynch became more aggressive in issuing vetoes, and the Legislature less reluctant to overturn him. The House and Senate overturned seven of Lynch’s 13 vetoes in 2011, the only time in recent memory lawmakers have overturned more vetoes than they have sustained. This year, the Legislature has only acted on two vetoes so far, sustaining the Governor’s objections to changes in installment loans and overturning his veto of the House Redistricting plan.
Even if the Legislature sustained all of Lynch’s vetoes next Wednesday, he will still set the mark for lowest percentage of vetoes sustained going back to 1989. While Lynch has not succeeded as often as his predecessors in seeing his vetoes stick, a few have been notable.
Last year, the Senate came two votes away from overturning Lynch’s veto of a bill pulling the Granite State out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. With a second veto looming, the Legislature this year watered down the RGGI repeal to change the way the program is structured. The House last year sustained Lynch’s veto of Right To Work legislation.