Gov. Rick Perry will veto financing for the public integrity unit — the state's ethics enforcement division — unless embattled Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigns, an official close to the governor said Tuesday.
The Austin American-Statesman reported Monday night that Perry would use a line-item veto to cut funding for the unit unless Lehmberg, who was convicted and served jail time for drunken driven this past spring, steps down.
So far, Lehmberg has declined to do that, and Democrats are concerned that if she does, Perry would be able to choose her replacement.
"Ultimately this is Rosemary’s decision," said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. "If she decides to resign, I will work with the governor's office to make sure that whoever is appointed to that position is someone who represents Travis County appropriately.”
The deadline to veto bills, including line items in the state budget, is this weekend. Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said the governor's office is "going through the budget line by line, and the governor has deep concerns over the integrity of the Public Integrity Unit."
Some Republicans have raised concerns for years that the public integrity unit is in Travis County, a Democratic stronghold. They've accused it of being a politically charged operation, and its funding has been a political football under both Lehmberg and her predecessor,Ronnie Earle.
In the last legislative session, repeated efforts by some lawmakers to move the public integrity unit from Travis County to the Texas Attorney General's office gained little traction.