“If we do nothing, December 1 is the end.” Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said today that’s when the Minnesota Senate will run out of money to operate unless the courts restore funding or Governor Mark Dayton relents. Gazelka, a Republican from Nisswa, says about three million dollars carryover from a special commission’s funds could extend the cutoff until around January 12th — but that’s still more than a month shy of when the legislature goes back into session. Analysts say when the legislature reconvenes February 20th, it could pass a bill funding its operations and, if Dayton vetoes it, they could override him.
Dayton vetoed funding for the legislature to try to force Republicans to rescind just-passed tax breaks. Republicans warn his action if allowed to stand would alter the fundamental balance of power in Minnesota government by violating the separation of powers clause in the Minnesota Constitution. Dayton responds the Constitution grants the governor veto power, and tax cuts Republicans’ pushed through will threaten the future stability of the state budget.
The dispute has gone all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled Dayton’s vetoes were within his authority but also ordered the two sides into mediation. Those meetings were unsuccessful, and the high court has not issued any rulings in the case since then. Republicans recently asked a lower court, which ruled in their favor, to order the governor to restore funding. Meanwhile Dayton asked the district judge to postpone a decision until the Supreme Court rules in the case. Analysts speculate the justices are hoping the legislature and governor can resolve the dispute on their own, so the court doesn’t also risk treading on the constitutionally-mandated separation of powers between the three branches of Minnesota government.
Audio from Gazelka’s press conference this morning: