When we checked in most recently on the ongoing cage match between Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican-majority legislative bodies, the Minnesota Supreme Court had decided that DFL Governor Mark Dayton had the constitutional authority to zero out the legislature’s funding, as Dayton did at the conclusion of the legislative session this past June.
The court’s 29-page opinion affirmed the governor’s authority to veto the legislature’s funding so as long as the legislature has sufficient funds to carry on. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea noted that the legislature had the funds necessary to subsist until it reconvenes next February.
Governor Dayton had vetoed the legislature’s appropriation of operational funding in order to induce it to renegotiate the terms of the tax bill he himself had signed; he says he signed the tax bill in order to avoid a so-called (by him) poison pill that would have deprived funding to the Department of Revenue. Dayton accused the legislature’s Republican majorities of “treachery” in crafting the bill he had just signed. (I gave a fuller account of the background to the cage match in part 1 of this series.)
So far Datyton’s gambit has won him nothing but the vindication of his constitutional authority to do what he did under the circumstances, while the legislature can keep the lights on. The point of Dayton’s veto, however, was to induce the legislature to rewrite the tax bill consistent wth Dayton’s dictates. The cage match continues.
Now the Star Tribune reports that Governor Dayton is ready to throw in the towel. That is how I read Erin Golden’s story “Headed into final year, Gov. Mark Dayton ready to move on from long fight over House, Senate budgets.” According to Golden’s account of her interview with him, Dayton allowed that he’s ready to restore the legislature’s full funding. Golden quotes Dayton: “I don’t want to protract this. We have the people’s work to do.”
Well, what was the point then? It’s not clear that Golden asked. Her story lacks an answer.
I have long thought that this political cage match puts Dayton’s most unattractive features on prominent public display. Dayton has claimed an authority any reasonable executive in a tripartite system would shrink from exercising. He does not play well with others. He has serious anger management issues.
It is perhaps fitting that the Minnesota Supreme Court granted him an untenable victory. The victory is of the variety known as empty, a meaningless chapter of a long-running story that is to be continued.