MINNEAPOLIS- On Friday afternoon, Gov. Mark Dayton has agreed to fund the legislature after weeks of turmoil.
Following the passage of the state government’s 2017-2018 budget, Dayton decided to line-item veto the funding for legislative staff. Early on, in order to counter this move by the governor, members of the legislature decided to instead move funding around, most importantly away from payments for the new Senate office building. The outcome of this action would have resulted in downgrading of Minnesota’s credit rating. However, in a more recent court filing, the MN Senate indicated that it was prepared to lay off 202 staff members if the trial was ongoing by July 31, 2017. The legislature retaliated and sued Dayton in order to receive their funding, via legal measures such as injunctive relief, which would secure the funding prior to the line-item veto taking effect.
The agreement reached by the governor’s attorney, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Sam Hanson, and the legislature’s attorney, Doug Kelly, according to the Pioneer Press, indicated that Governor Dayton had authorized a deal to be made in order to allow legislative staff’s salaries to be paid as the court case is ongoing. In many ways, this deal served a similar role within the disagreement as the Legislature’s call for injunctive relief, as it removed the monetary, and consequently timeliness concerns of the trial.
“It’s not going to throw people out of their jobs and it’s not going to jeopardize the bond rating and the like,” Dayton told the Pioneer Press about the deal. In a filing by the governor in relation to the case he stated that, “Gov. Dayton remains willing to listen to the Senate and House’s requests for funding necessary for them to perform their critical, core functions.”
To this end Governor Dayton argued in a different court filing for the appointment of a special paymaster in order to make payments that would alleviate the situation for legislative staff members as the need arose.
While the deal to fund the legislature until the end of the trial has in essence solved at least some of the issues at hand, the proceedings will still seek to determine whether or not Gov. Dayton acted constitutionally by line item vetoing the legislature in the first place.