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Judge rules Dayton’s veto of Legislative funding violated constitution

By Jonathan Avise
House Speaker Kurt Daudt speaks with the media Wednesday after a Ramsey County district court judge ruled in favor of the Legislature in their suit over Gov. Mark Dayton’s line-item veto of House and Senate funding. Photo by Paul Battaglia

(Updated 3:19 p.m.)

A Ramsey County judge on Wednesday ruled that Gov. Mark Dayton’s line-item veto of legislative funding violated the state’s constitution, a victory for House and Senate leaders who had filed suit in an effort to have the maneuver overturned.

Dayton, a DFLer, had eliminated funding for the House and Senate from a state government finance bill in an effort to bring leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature back to the negotiating table over provisions included in other budget bills the governor had signed into law.

Ramsey County Court Chief Judge John Guthmann wrote in his judgment that Dayton “improperly used his line-item veto authority to gain a repeal or modification of unrelated policy legislation by effectively eliminating a co-equal branch of government.”

That, the judge wrote, “offended the Separation of Powers clause of the Minnesota Constitution.”

House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) praised the ruling and encouraged the governor to not appeal.

“The bottom line is Minnesotans won today,” he said during an afternoon news conference on the Capitol steps. "The court very firmly overturned the governor's unconstitutional line-item vetoes of legislative funding — they made the right decision — and we've known that all along. Unfortunately, we had to go to court to right this wrong but we're happy for Minnesotans that their voice here at the Capitol has been restored." 

In a statement, Dayton said he planned to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, calling Wednesday's ruling "a preliminary step in this case's judicial process." 

The governor repeated his belief that the tax bill passed by the Legislature — and that he signed into law — jeopardizes the state's structurally-balanced budget. Dayton again called for lawmakers to return to negotiations with him to reverse "fiscally irresponsible" tax cuts. 

"I will continue to fight for fiscally sound budgets and policies that benefit all Minnesotans," he said. 

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