A Ramsey District Court on Monday will hear preliminary arguments from Minnesota legislative leaders who are suing Gov. Mark Dayton because he line-item vetoed funding for the legislature for the next four years.
The veto may not take effect for 90 days. Late Friday afternoon Gov. Dayton’s lawyer and the legislature’s lawyer jointly asked the Ramsey Court to fund the legislature for 90 days while the case winds its way through the courts. Assuming the court agrees, this protects both the legislature employees and specifies that the Senate must continue to make bond payments on its new building thus protecting the state’s bond rating.
The lawyers also stipulated that they will seek “accelerated review” by the Minnesota Supreme Court regardless how the district court rules. View Pioneer Press article and stipulation
The Governor’s veto was a retaliatory act against what he called a “poison pill” placed in the State Government Finance bill by the GOP majority that made it difficult for him to veto their tax cut package. A veto of the tax bill would have triggered a repeal of the funding for the Department of Revenue through a provision stuffed into the State Government Finance bill.
The Governor wants to force legislative leaders back to the negotiating table to revisit hundreds of millions of proposed tax cuts he felt he was forced to sign into law. The Governor would also like to renegotiate other policy provisions related to immigrant driver’s licenses and the newly enacted teacher licensure system.
GOP leaders have no interest in renegotiating any of the provisions the Governor has already signed into law. They would rather take their case to court and argue the Governor’s veto of their operating budget is an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers.
While the courts are reluctant to get in the middle of a legislative squabble like this, they’re forced to and it’s unclear how they will proceed and rule after Monday’s opening hearing. The Governor’s authority to line item veto appropriations is clearly stated in the state’s constitution. However, the legislature’s ability to operate was determined to be an essential function of government by the Ramsey District Court during the state government shutdown in July of 2011.