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Minnesota Supreme Court upholds Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of House, Senate budget

November 16, 2017 GMT

The Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of the budget of the state House and Senate.

The high court ruled Thursday that Dayton’s line-item veto “complied with the plain language ... of the Minnesota Constitution.” The ruling further said that the Constitution does not authorize the judiciary branch to order funding for the Legislature.

In writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea also said the Legislature has access to enough money currently to keep functioning until February, when its next session is scheduled to convene.

“We conclude that the Legislature currently has access to at least $26 million and, should the Legislature choose, up to $40 million, in appropriated, unencumbered funds,” Gildea wrote. Only Justice Barry Anderson dissented, arguing that Dayton’s line-item vetoes were unconstitutional.

The dispute between Dayton and Republican leaders dates to the final days of this year’s legislative session, in May. Republicans, who were pushing for a series of tax cuts that Dayton opposed, maneuvered to force the DFL governor to sign off on the cuts by tying them to the budget for the state Department of Revenue.

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Dayton did sign the tax bill, but he also used his line-item veto to zero out the budgets for the House and Senate. Republicans could get that funding restored, Dayton said, only if they were willing to undo some of the recently passed tax cuts and revisit several policy provisions they had also just passed, and that were included within larger budget bills that he signed despite those objections.

Dayton has targeted three tax cuts for repeal or scaling back: ones that benefit wealthy estates, business property owners and smokers. He says failure to do so puts the state on less stable financial footing. He also objects to new teacher licensing standards crafted by Republicans, and a provision that makes it tougher for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Instead of renegotiating with Dayton, Republicans sued. A Ramsey County judge took the Legislature’s side, striking down Dayton’s vetoes; but the Supreme Court in September declined to uphold that ruling. The high court instead pushed Dayton and Republican leaders into mediation, but that effort broke up after only a few hours.

In a statement Thursday morning, Dayton said he was “very pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld my line-item veto authority, which is established in the Minnesota Constitution.

“The Court has also found that the Legislature has access to at least $26 million to continue its full operations until it reconvenes in February. Therefore, there was no need for them to have initiated this lawsuit and imposed its costs on our state,” the statement continues.

“It is time for us all to agree that this dispute has been concluded and resume working together for the best interests of Minnesota.”

Erin Golden • 612-673-4790