Appeal Says Judiciary too Involved in Separating Powers

Image Credit: Congress

ST. PAUL, Minn.- Gov. Mark Dayton has filed an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court after the Ramsey county court’s decision against the constitutionality of Dayton’s line item veto.

As reported by Alpha News, the legislature sued Dayton over his line item veto of appropriations for the House and the Senate. In effect, this would mean that the legislature would be unable to operate, and the state’s credit rating would be put in serious jeopardy. Dayton vetoed the appropriations following the legislatures placement of a poison pill within the Omnibus Tax Bill (OTB). As the appeal makes note of, Dayton was presented with a “Hobson’s Choice: if he vetoed the tax bill, there would be no appropriation for the Department of Revenue, but if he signed it, three provisions which would imperil the State’s fiscal stability would become law.”

The lawsuit brought by the legislature states Dayton’s veto, “violated the Separation of Powers Clause of the Minnesota Constitution.” The legislature argued that the veto “impermissibly [controlled, coerced, and restrained] the action of the Legislature in the exercise of its official and constitutional powers and duties”

In the initial ruling the court agreed with the legislature’s lawsuit, finding “the vetoes of the items of appropriation for the Senate and the House had either the intent or the effect of ‘abolishing’ the Legislature.” The court further clarified, according to the appeal, that “the Governor could use his line item veto authority on the appropriations to the Legislature if he disagreed with the amounts for fiscal reasons, it determined that his line item vetoes were unconstitutional because the vetoes were motivated by policy concerns.”

The appeal argues that the court ruling was erroneous on this matter, citing legal precedents set from Johnson v. Carlson: “It is not for this Court to judge the wisdom of a veto, or the motives behind it, so long as the veto meets the constitutional test.” The appeal indicates “the Court upheld the line item veto in Johnson even though the effect of the veto may not have reduced spending, and even though the Governor intended to use the veto to achieve policy objectives he could not achieve otherwise.”

With separation of powers at the center of the legal debate, the appeal goes on the offensive against the courts, stating:

“The Separation of powers questions before this Court involve less the interactions between the Executive and Legislative branches, and more importantly, the level of intervention of the Judicial branch in the political processes of the other two. Separation of powers requires judicial restraint to avoid becoming embroiled in these political processes. As a result, the course of least intrusion by the Judiciary, as dictated by separation of powers, is to recognize the validity of the vetoes and assure critical, core function funding to the other branches while they continue to engage in the political processes assigned to them by the Constitution.”

The appeal chastises the district court for taking the position it did on the matter.

The House and Senate have until August 15 to respond to the appeal from Governor Dayton. The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on August 28.


Henry Carras