Who Loves a Veto?

May 2007
Aside from social issues, there are certain conservative Republican tenets about government that I have never agreed with. One of the major tenets, for example, is that government is inherently bad. This is something that I have never understood, nor do I understand why people who dislike the government run for public office. Is government inefficient? Sure, but it's not bad. If you want to see what happens when you have a government that doesn't do much, go visit a poor Latin American country; the free market doesn't fix roads and schools on its own. Recently the communications staff of the Colorado Senate Minority office came up with another criticism of government, aimed at Gov. Bill Ritter, that doesn't make much sense to me, either. According to ColoradoSenateNews.com:
After considering about two-thirds of the bills lawmakers have sent him this year, Gov. Bill Ritter so far has vetoed only two. If that number sticks, it will be decidedly lower than even the lowest number of vetoes by Gov. Bill Owens, Ritter's predecessor in office. Annual legislative statistical summaries for 1999-2006 -- Owens' eight years in office -- show the popular Republican and former state lawmaker nixed no fewer than five bills during his first year in office and as high as 47 bills in 2005. Ritter, a former Denver district attorney who is new to the Capitol, has only vetoed a bill that would have made it easier to establish closed union shops and one to license P.E. teachers. "He is not as moderate as he represents himself to be," said Senate GOP leader Andy McElhany of Colorado Springs. "He's rubber-stamping everything that comes out of a left-wing legislature."
It's interesting to hear Republicans criticize Ritter for not using the veto pen more often, especially when you consider that President Bush would rather be the best man in a gay wedding than veto a bill that comes out of congress. In fact, Bush didn't issued veto his first bill until last July, when he struck down a piece of legislation promoting funding for stem cell research (a project of Denver Rep. Diana DeGette). That's right - President Bush spent nearly six years in the White House before he vetoed his first bill. Ritter is a virtual butcher by comparison. But all that aside, I fail to see why we should celebrate a governor for vetoing dozens and dozens of bills. I understand that we need checks and balances in our government, and I think the governor's ability to veto a bill is a useful check...as long as it is used in moderation. When former Gov. Bill Owens vetoes 47 bills, such as he did in 2005, why is that cause for celebration? The legislature debates a measure in both the House and the Senate, and discussion is held both in committees and on the floor of each respective chamber. It's not as though a bill makes it to the governor's desk without anyone paying attention. Voters elect members of the legislature in order to hold these debates, but if the governor is just going to strike down most of the bills they pass, then what's the point of having held those discussions at all? If it's "good policy" for a governor to issue dozens of vetoes, then why should we even have a legislature? Why don't we just have the governor serve as king, making new laws by decree? Republicans are grasping at straws and looking rather silly if they are going to criticize Ritter for not issuing dozens of vetoes. There's a reason why we have two legislative chambers and a governor who all work together to pass new legislation. There's also a reason why the governor doesn't do it all himself.