By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Ramsey County District Court ruled Wednesday that Gov. Mark Dayton violated the constitution when he vetoed the operating funds for the state legislature in a budget dispute.

The move essentially eliminated a co-equal branch of government.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt is hailing the court victory, which legal experts say was a long shot.

Dayton is trying to force the Legislature to come back to St. Paul to re-negotiate parts of the state budget he didn’t like. But it’s not over yet.

“Minnesotans won today,” Daudt said.

Because the court ruling declares the governor’s vetoes “null and void,” the attorney representing Republican leaders in the Minnesota Legislature, Doug Kelley, says it permanently restores funding for the House and Senate.

Gov. Mark Dayton (credit: CBS)

Kelley says the funding is restored even if Dayton appeals the issue to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“Hundreds of legislative workers won’t have to worry about possible layoffs,” Kelley said.

Daudt is calling on Dayton to accept the court’s judgment.

Read More: Reality Check – Who’s Paying For The GOP Lawsuit Against Gov. Dayton?

“Unfortunately we had to go to court to right this wrong,” Rep. Daudt said. “But we’re happy for Minnesotans that their voice here at the Capitol has been restored.”

Dayton vetoed every penny of the Legislature’s $130 million, two-year budget — trying to force lawmakers back to the Capitol to re-negotiate spending bills.

But the court said the governor violated the constitutional Separation of Powers clause, effectively eliminating a co-equal branch of government.

But Dayton is not giving up. He’s going to appeal the ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court, still hoping to get lawmakers back to St. Paul for a “re-do.”

He said in a statement: “It is unfortunate that Republican Legislative Leaders are using this ruling to avoid completing their work.”

Daudt said late Wednesday afternoon that he’s “disappointed” that the governor is “refusing to accept” the court’s decision, and has chosen to appeal this case.

Pat Kessler