Judge orders funding for Minnesota Legislature amid budget dispute

A Ramsey County judge has issued a temporary injunction that requires the state budget office to provide continued funding to the Minnesota Legislature House and Senate.

Republican lawmakers sued Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton after he vetoed funding of the House and Senate. Lawmakers said the move is unconstitutional, but the governor argued there is no law against line-item vetoes of funding measures.

The governor is trying to use the vetoes as leverage to renegotiate a tax bill included in this year's budget. On Friday, Gov. Dayton agreed to continue funding the legislature until October, while the legal case plays out in court. The order signed by Ramsey County Judge John Guthmann makes the temporary injunction and continued funding official.

“The court views the Stipulation as a petition by the parties to fund the Minnesota Legislature on a temporary basis because the Legislature is an independent branch of government that provides core governmental functions that must be performed in accordance with Minnesota’s Constitution,” the judge wrote. “Absent funding, Minnesota’s legislative branch cannot perform all of the core functions envisioned by the Minnesota Constitution.”

The injunction remains in effect until a final decision is made by the court, or until Oct. 1, 2017, whichever occurs first.

This avoids a potential legislative shutdown, which could have caused furloughs of state employees and damaged the state's credit rating.

Statement from House Speaker Kurt Daudt

"We're grateful that the judge has granted key portions of the agreed-upon stipulation that ensures work can continue on behalf of Minnesotans by legislators and staff while the case works its way through the legal process. Additionally, it's encouraging that the judge found that the constitutionality of the veto was indeed ripe, which allows the case to move forward for an eventual ruling.  We remain confident that the Governor's actions will be found unconstitutional and hope for a swift resolution to the legal process."

Statement from Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka

"This court order will temporarily prevent further damage to the state's credit rating and allow the legislature to function temporarily while the courts determine the unconstitutionality of Governor Dayton's actions. Urgency is still required; Minnesotans will no longer have a voice at the state capital starting October 1. We hope this case is quickly escalated to the Minnesota Supreme Court and legislative funding is restored before then."