A Ramsey County judge left Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers in suspense Monday about whether he'll consent to temporary funding to pay to run the Legislature while a dispute over a line-item veto plays out.
The fight over funding stems from a messy budget-setting process that required a special session to finish up.
It was not until he saw that the $130-million, two-year legislative appropriation was set off on its own in a larger funding bill - "kind of an inviting target", he said - and his administration calculated the long-term cost of the tax cuts lawmakers approved - about $5 billion over the next decade - that he started thinking seriously about nixing the funding. Republicans who control the Legislature showed little interest in renegotiating and filed a lawsuit.
"In addition to the parties' Stipulation that Count I of the Complaint is ripe for decision, the court also finds that the issues presented to the court in Count I of the Complaint are ripe and require a ruling from the court", wrote Guthmann in his order. They agreed to keep the Legislature funded - taking the zing out of the governor's veto - while the case drags on. The case could have broad implications, both for the working relationships between the GOP Legislature and Dayton in his final months in office as well as major court precedents for how the executive and legislative branches interact.
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The Legislature's attorney, Doug Kelley, argued that there have to be limits to a governor's veto authority, otherwise executive authority is unchecked.
Schultz says other language in the order indicates that not only will the judge decide the case instead of letting the legislature and Dayton work out their differences through negotiation, but the judge will likely rule Dayton's line-item veto for the purposes of coercing the legislature to negotiate is a violation of the separation of powers in the constitution.
Even when inking the veto, the two-term Democratic governor said that he expected that he would be sued.
"My client has said we are not going to negotiate while we have a gun to our head".
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Kelley noted that the line-item veto power was added to the State Constitution in 1876, but this is the first time since then any governor has used that authority to strip funding from the legislature.
On Thursday, the House and Senate outlined the impact if the governor's veto of their funding stood: A near-complete shut down of the Legislature.
"What a slippery slope that would be to begin to look at the motive, not only a slippery slope but I think a cliff frankly", Hanson said. "Aren't they both legal uses of the veto?" Both attorneys offered discounts in the case.
But the meat of the case remains: Can a governor veto the Legislature's funding as a negotiating tactic? But Guthmann was skeptical of Kaardal's case.
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