MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Attorneys for the Minnesota Legislature and the governor argued in court Monday morning about the legality of the governor’s veto of funding for the House and Senate.
The crisis threatened to leave 500 staffers without pay starting as soon as next month.
But late Friday both sides agreed to 90 days of temporary funding.
Late this afternoon, Chief Ramsey County Court Judge Guthmann gave his approval to the 90 day temporary funding proposal, which means everyone at the Legislature, including 500 staffers, will get paid as this legal dispute plays out in court.
At a hearing Monday, Guthmann suggested the sides try using a mediator. But both sides said the bitter dispute was too far gone for that.
The basic issue: does Governor Mark Dayton’s line item veto power allow him to do what he did — eliminate $130 million in funding for the Legislature.
Doug Kelley, the legislators’ attorney, argued no.
“In 141 years, nobody else has — no other governor has done this. This is kind of the nuclear option,” Kelley said.
But Sam Hanson, the governor’s attorney, says the veto was legal. The judge then asked Hanson if the governor has the power to veto funding for the courts if he didn’t like their rulings.
“I think he can veto. That would be a very unsavory thing for a governor to do and it is the extreme but it is nothing near what we have at present in this case,” Hanson said.
Constitutional Law Professor David Schultz who attended the hearing thinks the governor is on shaky ground.
“The governor has pretty broad authority to be able to use the line item veto, but you probably can’t use it in situations like this where you use it to sort of essentially ‘x’ out another branch of the government,” he said.
Speaker Kurt Daudt went further at a news conference.
“The fact that the governor’s attorney is willing to say that it would be unsavory if it’s the judicial branch but somehow it’s OK if you do it to the legislative branch. No, it’s just as unsavory and it is just as wrong,” Daudt said.
The judge did not give any timeline on a ruling on the larger issue of whether or not Governor Dayton’s line item veto of the funding was legal.