Judge orders funding for Minnesota Legislature amid budget dispute

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A Minnesota judge is considering whether Gov. Mark Dayton's veto of the Legislature's funding was unconstitutional.

Judges traditionally have avoided wading into disputes between the legislature and the governor.

"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.

"It is the duty of the courts to interpret constitutional provisions that appear to be irreconcilable and attempt to reconcile and harmonize them", writes Guthmann in the order. He said he thought Dayton shouldn't appeal if Guthmann sides with the Legislature, but vowed to appeal "absolutely" if they lose the case.

"Call the balls and strikes, that's what the court does", Kelley asserted.

"Urgency is still required", Gazelka said.

Without judicial interference "the people of the state of Minnesota are deprived of their constitutionally-mandated voice in the administration of their government", the Legislature argued in legal pleadings.

Hanson argued repeatedly that the court had the power to authorize funding for core functions in the absence of a full legislative budget.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Monday he hoped for a decision later this week. "The governor believes it is legal".

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The governor said he felt compelled to let the tax bill become law, despite his objections to it, because of a provision Republican leaders added to the measure that would've cut the Dept. of Revenue's entire budget if the tax bill were vetoed.

"This is a one-of-a-kind", said lawyer Doug Kelley, who is representing the Legislature.

Attorneys for both sides told Guthmann that they were at an stalemate, with the Legislature arguing that Dayton's veto violated the constitutional separation of powers between branches of government and Dayton contending that the veto was legal and appropriate.

The judge said that disagreement is why the court needs to rule.

"This court order will temporarily prevent further damage to the state's credit rating and allow the legislature to function temporarily while the courts determine the unconstitutionality of Governor Dayton's actions".

"We are at an impasse", said Sam Hanson, Dayton's attorney in the case.

"I'm prepared for surprises as we get into the proceedings", he said. "'I am going to obliterate you and your ability to conduct business for the next two years unless you come to the table.' That is an impermissible use of the appropriation line-item veto". That money constitutes rent on the new Senate Office Building and debt service on its parking ramp.

The injunction is in effect until October 1, or until the Legislature's suit against Dayton has been decided either in Ramsey County District Court or through appellate review.

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