Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka this week held a press conference to announce that the Senate would have to furlough its 205 employees and cease paying Senators on Dec. 1 if Governor Dayton doesn’t relent on his line-item veto of the legislature’s operating budget.
The Governor’s office points to a pot of $45 million they say the legislature is sitting on and could use those funds to continue operating as normal until the next session begins on Feb. 20. Legislative leaders argue those funds are encumbered for other purposes and it wouldn’t be prudent to take them to backfill their current shortfall.
The finger pointing will continue until the state’s Supreme Court issues a final ruling in the lawsuit brought by the legislature this summer against the Governor’s decision to line-item veto their operating budget.
A Ramsey District Court in July ruled the Governor’s line-item veto to be unconstitutional, but Governor Dayton appealed that decision. The Supreme Court heard arguments and issued orders for the two parties to go into mediation to resolve their differences. That effort didn’t produce an agreement and the Supreme Court has yet to issue a final ruling on the matter. House leaders have noted they will run out of funds on Feb. 1 if the situation isn’t resolved.
The implications for the public and various interests (MREA included) for the next legislative session are severe. There’s potential for the 2018 session to start off very slowly if legislators have to come in and re-pass an operating budget, wait for an assumed veto by the Governor and then work to override that veto.
That effort alone could burn several weeks of what is supposed to be a 12-week session. Logistics aside, the personality and emotional conflict resulting from this fight mean the opportunity for bi-partisan work on a bonding bill and any supplemental budget bill are greatly diminished.