HARRISBURG, Pa. - Budget legislation signed by Gov. Tom Corbett for Pennsylvania state government's two-week-old fiscal year is the subject of intense legal scrutiny.

Parts of the $29 billion budget package are now an exhibit in a two-year-old lawsuit that is seeking to stop Pennsylvania state government from allowing more natural gas drilling on publicly owned lands and diverting the drilling proceeds away from a land conservation fund. A Tuesday afternoon status conference was scheduled in the case, which was brought by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation.

A spokesman for Corbett's legal office would not comment, other than to say that the governor's office will respond in court.

The budget package establishes the state's authority to enact a new round of leasing publicly owned lands for natural gas drilling and authorizes the diversion of another $220 million from the fund into the state government's operating budget.

In addition, lawmakers are reviewing it because they say $7 million in line-item vetoes by Corbett of earmarks or spending items picked by lawmakers were unprecedented and possibly unconstitutional.

Corbett's office insists he had the legal authority - most of it was for the cost of a new parking deal negotiated by the Corbett administration - but lawmakers say it may have crossed a constitutional line from blocking spending to blocking wording that instead gave direction to spending already authorized elsewhere.


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House officials were studying the issue, House Parliamentarian Clancy Myer said Tuesday.

Lawmakers can override a governor's veto by a two-thirds majority vote, although leaders of the Legislature's Republican majorities had made no decision on how to respond to Corbett's line-item vetoes.

Corbett also used a line-item veto to scratch out $65 million, or 20 percent, of the Legislature's operating budget. The last time a governor used the power of a line-item veto to eliminate part of the Legislature's budget was 1978 under Gov. Milton Shapp, Myer said.

Lawmakers overrode the veto, he said.