MN Supreme Court: Dayton had a right to defund the Legislature

The GOP-led Legislature sued Dayton for vetoing their operating budget.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has reached a decision on that Republican-led lawsuit against Gov. Mark Dayton. 

In short, the court says Dayton does indeed have the constitutional power to defund the state Legislature.

The governor did this earlier in the year by vetoing the part of the 2018 budget that keeps the Legislature running (and its staff members paid). 

It was a tactic to force lawmakers to redo parts of that budget – with which Dayton and his fellow DFLers were unhappy. But the Republicans-led Legislature ended up suing the governor instead, saying the move was a constitutional overreach.

On Friday though the state Supreme Court sided with Dayton, saying in part, "We hold that the Governor's exercise of his of his line-item veto power over the appropriation for the Legislature's biennial budget" was constitutional.

In other words, yes, he can do that. 

Dayton in an email statement said he's "very pleased" his actions were upheld.

Though Friday's ruling overturned an earlier decision by an appeals court, it isn't a full-fledged victory for Dayton. It also orders both him and his Republican rivals to sort out their budget differences. And the clock is ticking.

"We therefore require both parties to participate in good faith efforts to resolve this dispute through mediation," says the court's ruling. Both sides have until Tuesday, Sept. 12, to pick a mediator. 

If not, the court writes, one will be picked for them.

Dayton in his statement said he's also pleased with that piece of the ruling however, adding he proposed such negotiations months ago.

"I remain ready and very willing to engage in those negotiations immediately," he said. "I have asked my legal team to contact their legislative counterparts to begin to resolve this matter."

As MinnPost noted earlier this year, Dayton's veto created "an unusual situation," because "no Minnesota governor has ever vetoed the entire budget of the legislative branch before."

The site also predicted that "any ruling in the case could set legal precedent for governors and legislatures for decades to come." 

(Note: This story's language has been updated to make it clear the Legislature, which is led by Republicans, filed the lawsuit against the governor.)

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