Funding Order Language May Be Bad News For Dayton Says Law Professor

Barsaba Taglieri
Giugno 28, 2017

A Ramsey County District Court judge Tuesday granted a temporary injunction that keeps the Minnesota Legislature in business until at least October 1 while the court considers the constitutionality of Gov. Mark Dayton's line-item veto that zeroed out the Legislature's budget.

Dayton vetoed the funding for the Legislature, so those constitutionally mandated salaries are not being paid, said Erick Kaardal, the attorney for ACA.

The Legislature wants Dayton's veto of House and Senate appropriations nullified on grounds he would be "obliterating" another branch of government; Dayton's attorneys said line-item veto power is clearly granted in the Minnesota Constitution and the court would be going down "not only a slippery slope, but a cliff" if he took the governor's motives into account. He said that Dayton's overreach was unprecedented in the Minnesota line-item veto's 141-year history.

"You can't obliterate another branch of government", answered Kelley. In his veto letter, Dayton said he vetoed that funding because he objected to several provisions in two budget bills, as well as specific tax breaks in the tax bill.

"The court can not exercise executive power; the court can not exercise legislative power; and so if you inquire into the motive and the intent of the governor in the exercise of a veto. you in effect are exercising executive power". That fact was not lost on Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann, who has taken the case under advisement.

"We feel good about our opportunities proceeding through the courts because of past legal precedents", House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Crown-area Republican, said in early June when the Legislature moved to hire outside counsel to handle the case.

"He chose what I call the nuclear option", Kelley said.

Courts have three times - on the verge of a shutdown in 2001 and during the government shutdowns of 2005 and 2011 - ordered funding for core functions of government, despite the lack of budgets approved by the Legislature and the governor.

He added that it was "hypocritical" for the Legislature to suggest the governor can't veto their funding in order to change things in the tax bill. But he doesn't like legislating through the court process. The House and Senate had said they would need to shutdown almost all operations if they didn't get funding. But his ruling is unlikely to be the last one for the case.

"While it may be argued that a literal reading of Article XI of the Minnesota Constitution prohibits the relief requested by the parties, it is the duty of the courts to interpret constitutional provisions that appear to be irreconcilable and attempt to reconcile and harmonize them", Guthmann's ruling states. He said he thought Dayton shouldn't appeal if Guthmann sides with the Legislature, but vowed to appeal "absolutely" if they lose the case.

"The best settlements are reached in an atmosphere of uncertainty", Guthmann joked with the attorneys.

On Monday, Kelley, representing the legislature, asked the judge to declare Dayton's vetoes "null and void".

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