By Baird Helgeson
The Minnesota Supreme Court put a lawsuit challenging Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s solo budget-cutting authority on the fast track.
As the state faces a multibillion-dollar deficit over the next few years, Minnesota's highest court agreed Tuesday to an accelerated review of a case filed by six people on a nutrition program who lost their funding as part of Pawlenty’s cuts.
The court will hear oral arguments March 15.
“We are pleased with the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision to expedite a decision on this very important matter," Pawlenty said in a statement.
Late last month, Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled that Pawlenty overstepped his authority when he used his emergency budget-cutting power last summer to eliminate funding for the tiny program without legislative approval.
Gearin’s ruling threatens to unravel more than $2.7 billion in cuts Pawlenty made through a procedure called unallotment.
Pawlenty appealed the ruling, saying Gearin misinterpreted the law. "We remain confident that the unallotment actions were proper, appropriate and legal in every respect,” he said Tuesday.
Since the state burns through about $50 million a day, the governor asked to bypass the Appeals Court and have the state Supreme Court hear the case. He asked for a swift review.
Gearin ordered money for the program, about $5.3 million, to be reinstated until the case is resolved.
"Prompt resolution of the issues raised in this case by our clients is important to everyone," said Galen Robinson, an attorney from Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance who represents the plaintiffs. "We are pleased that the Supreme Court granted accelerated review."