Court Decides No More Funds for Legislature

Minnesota Supreme Court Upholds Dayton’s Veto, Won’t Give Minnesota Legislature Appropriations

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Gov. Dayton
Gov. Dayton

ST. PAUL, Minn.- The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the Governor Mark Dayton’s line item veto was constitutional and that it will not restore appropriations to the legislature.

It all started when Dayton decided to use his line item veto power in order to eliminate the appropriation for the Minnesota legislature due to the legislature’s addition of a ‘poison pill’ within the state budget, which would have cut funding from offices that the governor considered key to the states operations.

In response the legislature sued Dayton for the appropriations, arguing that the governor’s actions were unconstitutional and looked to eliminate the ‘separate but equal’ balance. While the district court found Dayton’s veto unconstitutional, they did not act to restore the legislature’s funding.

When the case went to the Minnesota Supreme Court the court ordered that the two parties proceed to mediation, that the parties determine the course of action by the MN Supreme Court for future debates over powers vested exclusively to the executive and legislative branches, and that the legislature review the amount of funds it had available.

Mediation only lasted two days before Dayton walked out after feeling the process was making little headway in resolving the dispute. Eventually, the Minnesota legislature appealed to the MN Supreme Court to make a decision that would give them their appropriations.

In the end the Minnesota Supreme Court decided against that option.

“Whether it was wise for the people of Minnesota in 1876 to provide for a veto power over items of appropriation, in language that does not expressly exclude the appropriations for a coordinate branch of government”, the court wrote in their decision, “is not for us to judge.”

The court did rule on a couple important matters in the case, however.

“The Governor’s exercise of his line-item veto power on appropriations to the Legislature complied with the plain language of Article IV, Section 23 of the Minnesota Constitution,” the court said, “The plain language of Article XI, Section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution does not authorize the judiciary to order funding for the Legislature in the absence of an appropriation.”

Many within the legislature are understandably unhappy with the decision made by the MN Supreme Court.

“The MN Supreme Court is setting a dangerous precedent. Disappointed by their ruling today not upholding the district court,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in a Facebook post.

“We had hoped they would end this debacle and they did not,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in a press conference.

The end result of the MN Supreme Court’s decision leaves the legislature with few options. Last week, the MN Senate issued a statement saying that the Minnesota Senate would be out of funds by December 1. The statement says that the Senate is going to make an effort to ask the Legislative Coordinating Committee (LCC) for carry forward funds in order to halt furloughs until January.

Without funding from the LCC the Minnesota Senate will be forced to lay off employees beginning on December 1, while per diem and mileage reimbursement will be suspended. The Senate building will be locked and constituents services will also be halted  on December 1.

“We are going to reach out to the governor, but it is going to be from a position of legislative strength,” Gazelka said during a press conference, “It has to be that we are an equal branch of government with him.”

 

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