ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A judge restored funding Wednesday for Minnesota's legislative branch, ruling that Gov. Mark Dayton's veto of the Legislature's operating budget was an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers.
Budgets for the House and Senate became a victim in a fight between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature over the scope of tax cuts. Dayton used a line-item veto to remove its $130 million budget in May, trying to call lawmakers back to St. Paul to slim down a $650 million tax bill he signed and remove other provisions such as a rulemaking ban on issuing driver's licenses to immigrants living in the state illegally.
But the Legislature sued. Ramsey County Judge John Guthmann ruled Wednesday that Dayton clearly overstepped the bounds of a line-item veto by effectively eliminating another branch of government, declaring that veto "null and void."
"The court concludes that the Governor's vetoes violated the Separations of Powers clause ... because they both nullified a branch of government and refashioned the line-item veto tool to secure the repeal or modification of policy legislation unrelated to the vetoed appropriation," he wrote.
The two sides had agreed to temporarily fund the Legislature through September as the lawsuit progressed.
Dayton said he would appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court and called on Republicans to drop "fiscally irresponsible tax cuts."
Top Republicans welcomed the ruling, noting that Dayton's veto caused uncertainty for hundreds of lawmakers and staffers.
"We are happy with the court's decision. The bottom line is that Minnesotans won today," House Speaker Kurt Daudt said. "I would ask the governor to accept the court's decision and not appeal."