May 7, 2010
The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision and found that Governor Pawlenty had overreached his authority when he cut $2.7 billion from the state’s budget without legislative approval in order to balance the State budget for the current biennium, which began July 1, 2009. The decision came midmorning on Wednesday, less than two weeks before the end of the legislative session. The 4-3 opinion ruled said that Pawlenty illegally used his unallotment authority when he eliminated a nutrition program by cutting its funding last year.
The ruling said “because the legislative and executive branches never enacted a balanced budget for the 2010-2011 biennium, use of the unallotment power to address the unresolved deficit exceeded the authority granted to the executive branch by the statute.”
The Governor and the Legislature could now be faced with a budget deficit as large as $3.7 billion. At his press conference following the decision on Wednesday, Pawlenty said some of the cuts will by unaffected by the court’s decision. He urged the Legislature to ratify his unallotments to solve the deficit and continue on the 2010 budget.
Legislative leaders and the Governor met three times on Thursday to begin discussions aimed at resolving the budget problems created by the Supreme Court decision.
However, no decisions were reached. Meetings will likely continue through the weekend as the Legislature faces a May 17 deadline for adjournment.
Health and Human Services
The Omnibus Health and Human Services bill passed through both chambers this week, despite an announcement from the Governor that he would veto the bill. Over fifty amendments were debated in the House for nine hours and about half of those were adopted. The Senate spent about half as much time debating the bill.
A Conference Committee was formed and began meeting late Thursday night. Chair Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth) announced the Conference Committee will finish by Sunday night. He also told the Committee that target budget cut numbers had not yet been received.
A New Home for the Vikings
Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) and Rep. Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids) introduced a bill this week to build a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. One proposal in the bill does not specify a location for the new stadium, which would be funded by a sports-themed lottery, taxes on sports memorabilia, and hospitality taxes including hotels and rental cars. An alternative proposal in the bill would keep the stadium in Minneapolis by the use of bonding authority currently directed at the Minneapolis Convention Center, which will be paid off in 10 years. The bill calls for the team to pay up front construction costs of $264 million.
The House Local Government Division passed the bill on a 6-4 vote, but the proposal reached a stumbling block when it failed 9-10 in the House State and Local Government Operations, Reform, Technology and Elections Committee. The Senate approved the bill with a 9-3 vote in the State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee on Wednesday. The bill remains alive but faces a difficult road to enactment.
Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) was endorsed as the Republican candidate for governor at the state convention last weekend in Minneapolis. Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall), who was also seeking the GOP endorsement, conceded graciously to Emmer after the second ballot. A recent poll released by Survey USA/KSTP shows Emmer with 41 percent to 33 percent lead over DFL-endorsed candidate and Speaker of the House, Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Tom Horner, the likely Independence Party candidate, polled nine percent of the vote in that matchup.
Kelliher still faces an August primary challenge from former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton and former State Rep. Matt Entenza. The poll shows Emmer beating Dayton by eight percent and Entenza by 11 percent.
Two members of the House announced their retirements following the 2010 legislative session. Reps. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria) and Laura Brod (R-New Prague) join 15 other legislators who will not be running for another term. Kohls and Brod were broadly praised as two of the more effective and thoughtful members of the House Republican Caucus.
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