Ever since I vetoed some of the Minnesota Legislature’s funding for the next two years, Republican legislative leaders have been screaming that I am trying to abolish their branch of government. They sued me, claiming that I had acted unconstitutionally by denying them enough money to “survive” until next February’s legislative session, when they will be able to restore their full funding.
In the Legislature’s brief filed with the Minnesota Supreme Court just last week, they again swore that my vetoes had denied them enough money to operate until next February. In addition, a group of Republican legislators wrote in these pages last Friday that “ … the governor used his line-item veto power to eliminate funding for the Legislature, effectively abolishing the legislative branch.”
Those claims are untrue. During our recent meeting, Republican legislative leaders admitted that they have more than enough money available to them to pay for their planned operating expenditures until the Legislature reconvenes.
For four months, Republican leaders have been deceiving the people of Minnesota, other legislators, the district court and the Supreme Court about their true financial situation. They used their deceit that the Legislature’s very survival was at stake to justify their lawsuit, which will cost Minnesota taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars.
They hyped the drama by contending that my motive was to try to destroy their coequal branch of government. That is nonsense, and they know it. I have said repeatedly that the reason for my veto was to try to force them to revise their 2017 tax bill, which I believe will seriously jeopardize Minnesota government’s future financial stability.
They passed that bill on the last day of their legislative session, without bothering to find out what it will cost over the next 10 years. That will be over $5 billion, according to the Department of Revenue. That’s an average revenue loss of over $1 billion in each of the next five bienniums.
When I took office in January 2011, our state government faced a projected deficit of over $6 billion for the following two years. It took some very hard decisions, but we worked our way out of that hole. For the past three years, all of our budget forecasts have projected surpluses, not deficits.
Fiscal stability is one of the most important legacies I want to leave Minnesota, when I depart in 15 months. I am not going to stand by quietly while it’s squandered. That is why I am so appalled by Republican legislative leaders’ unwillingness to engage in honest discussions about my reasons for my veto. I will bring those crucial discussions to the 2018 legislative session.
Mark Dayton is governor of Minnesota.