Gov. Mark Dayton is disputing legislative leaders’ request to a Ramsey County judge that he restore funding for the state House and Senate, arguing that the Legislature has been deceptive about its finances and has enough money on hand to fund its operations.
Arguments filed Wednesday by the attorney representing the DFL governor in his monthslong legal battle with GOP legislative leaders ask Judge John Guthmann to hold off on enforcing his ruling in the case until the Minnesota Supreme Court makes a final ruling in the matter. After the Legislature sued Dayton over his line-item veto of House and Senate funding, Guthmann ruled in July that the governor’s action was unconstitutional and that the budget should be restored.
That decision, however, remains in legal limbo because of Dayton’s appeal to the state’s high court. The Minnesota Supreme Court heard the matter in August and ordered the two sides into mediation, rather than issuing a firm decision. Those talks failed, but the court has not yet made any final ruling.
The brief from Dayton’s attorney argues that the Legislature filed its “unnecessary lawsuit based on the false premise that the governor’s line-item veto abolished them by ‘starving’ them of funding,” adding that “nothing could be further from the truth: (the Legislature has) access to over $45 million.”
The governor notes that lawmakers have “spent their allegedly scarce resources on luxury apartments and travel reimbursements for legislators who are not even in session.”
Republican legislative leaders, meanwhile, paint a very different picture of the Legislature’s financial situation. In their own legal filing last week, they contended that the House and Senate are “running on fumes” as they burn through reserve funds. Both chambers have told members they can no longer file for per-diem reimbursements, mileage or travel expenses. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, ordered a hold on spending by House committees.
On Wednesday, Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, issued a statement about Dayton’s court filings, arguing again that the veto was unconstitutional and that he should accept the lower-court ruling.
“Another day, another court filing from Gov. Dayton attempting to silence the voice of the people by cutting off funding to the Legislative branch,” Gazelka said.
Dayton shot back in his own statement, asking legislative leaders to settle their differences with him outside of the courtroom.
“If they are unwilling, they should at least stop wasting taxpayer dollars on expensive and unnecessary legal proceedings, and await a final judgment from the Minnesota Supreme Court,” he said.
The dispute has been ongoing since May, when Dayton vetoed legislative funding amid a dispute over a GOP tax-cut package and other items in the budget. The governor hoped to bring legislative leaders back to the negotiating table, but the Legislature sued, saying Dayton had violated the separation of branches of government guaranteed in the state constitution.
Mediation failed after a day and a half.