State Senate Pro Tem. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, sued Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in San Francisco Superior Court today to challenge $489 million in budget cuts made by the governor last month.

The lawsuit claims the governor didn’t have the power to make additional cuts in reductions the Legislature enacted when it trimmed $24 billion from the California budget in late July in response to the state’s financial crisis.

The suit argues, “The governor has overstepped his authority. A reduction in an existing appropriation is not subject to line-item veto.”

It contends a governor can make line-item cuts only in new appropriations and not in reductions of existing appropriations.

Steinberg, who filed the lawsuit as both a legislator and a taxpayer, said on Friday he will pay for it out of campaign funds.

Most of Schwarzenegger’s cuts were made in programs for children and seniors and in health programs.

The lawsuit says “the issue in this case is particularly stark” because the additional cuts “are to funding for the most vulnerable members of our society: the poor, the young and the very old.”

The lawsuit seeks a court order blocking the cuts.

Aaron McLear, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger, said the cuts were needed to maintain a state reserve fund and said the governor’s power to make them “is unquestioned and will be upheld by the courts.”

McLear referred to a statement in which the governor’s legal affairs secretary, Andrea Hoch, said last week that the cuts were within his authority.

The lawsuit, by contrast, cites an Aug. 5 opinion in which the Legislative Counsel Bureau concluded the cuts were not a valid exercise of the governor’s line-item veto power. The bureau provides legal advice to the Legislature.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!