Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said Tuesday he is concerned by Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent vow to veto a section of the state budget that funds the Legislature, citing how the move to block such pay could impact staffers and legislative agencies.
“I understand the frustration the governor has in [lawmakers] not passing those emergency items — they were priorities of the governor, they were priorities of mine, priorities of many members of the Legislature,” Phelan, a Beaumont Republican, said in an interview with The Texas Tribune. “My only concern is how it impacts staff, especially those who live here in Austin, which is not an inexpensive place to live and raise your family and children.”
Abbott’s vow came after a Democratic walkout in the House late Sunday night blocked passage of Senate Bill 7, his priority elections bill that would overhaul voting rights in Texas.
“No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities,” Abbott said in a tweet.
Phelan also said he thinks that, under the Constitution, lawmakers would still have to be paid even if Abbott carried out his veto. Lawmakers are paid $600 a month in addition to a per diem of $221 every day the Legislature is in session, both during regular and special sessions.
The governor has said he will summon the Legislature back to Austin for an overtime round to pass the legislation, though he has not yet specified when he plans to do so. Lawmakers are already expected to return this fall for a special session to redraw the state’s political maps.
Phelan said if Abbott carries out the veto, which he has until June 20 to do, lawmakers could be back for an earlier-than-anticipated overtime round to deal with the issue, since the budget at issue covers the fiscal year starting Sept. 1.
The speaker also said he had concerns about how the move could impact legislative agencies such as the Legislative Budget Board, which are also funded by article X of the budget.
“They weren’t the ones who decided that we were going to break quorum,” Phelan said.