ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Republican leaders at the Minnesota Legislature on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Democratic Governor Mark Dayton.
That highly unusual legal action comes after Gov. Dayton vetoed funding for the Legislature itself. Gov. Dayton is trying to force lawmakers into a Special Session to change parts of bills he signed into law, but wants to see repealed.
The lawsuit, filed in Ramsey County District Court, accuses the Governor of violating the Separation of Powers clause in the Minnesota Constitution.
Republican leaders say the Governor cannot legally eliminate funding for a co-equal branch of government.
“We hope that the court understands that while it might be the legislative branch funding that is in jeopardy this time,” said Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt. “Next time it could be the Court funding.”
Gov. Dayton says the Legislature engaged in political blackmail.
He says he was forced to sign tax and spending bills he didn’t like, because Republicans inserted “poison pills” in other measures that would have shut down the State Revenue Department.
“Putting policy measures into these budget bills is putting a gun to the head of the executive branch,” said Dayton. “If you don’t agree to our budget, we’re going to force a shutdown!’ Which is what happened in 2011.”
Without funding, the House and Senate could run out of money by late summer, forcing layoffs for more than 400 staffers.
To save money, Republicans threaten to cancel an $8 million loan payment on the new Senate Office Building, which could damage the state’s credit rating.
“My people are more important than the building,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “From there are we going to have to decide how it is. Whether they evict us or not, I don’t know. That is an issue we have to explore. But we are not going to jeopardize our staff over that building.”
House and Senate leaders are seeking a temporary restraining order to continue spending after the July 1 funding cutoff date. The road map for the lawsuit is unclear. It could be fast-tracked to the Minnesota Supreme Court.