Dayton: Rejected

Ramco Judge Kathleen Gearin has ruled on “critical services” for a potential upcoming government shutdown:

Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin’s ruling came Wednesday, just two days before a state government shutdown would begin. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature would have to agree on a budget before Friday to avoid the scenario.

Dayton and top lawmakers were sequestered in the governor’s office on their sixth straight day of budget negotiations. They have yet to report a breakthrough in a drawn-out dispute over the level of spending in the next two-year budget and how to pay for it. The state faces a projected $5 billion deficit in the two-year budget cycle, which begins on Friday.

Dayton wants to raise income taxes on high earners, while Republicans insist on no new revenue.

One wonders if MPR’s reporter – Elizabeth Dunbar – is aware of the distinction between “no new taxes” and “no new revenue”.  New revenue happens when people become more prosperous and pay more in taxes.

I’ll chalk it up to carelessness, and continue.

Gearin said state payments to school districts and local governments should continue even if there’s no budget by Friday. She said the state must also fulfill its obligations to the federal government and continue to administer those programs, including food stamps, welfare payments and Medicaid.

“The failure to properly fund critical core functions of the executive and legislative branches will violate the constitutional rights of the citizens of Minnesota,” Gearin wrote in a 19-page written order.

But Gearin emphasized that state payments during a shutdown should be limited “only the most critical functions of government involving the security, benefit, and protection of the people.”

What a radical notion; limiting government to what it’s actually needed for.

I need to read the order (and so do you, so go and do it) more completely, but it’s hard to read what I’ve seen so far as anything but at least a qualified victory for the MNGOP.  Mark Dayton’s attempt to push all the pain of this shutdown onto this state’s most vulnerable residents – which we’ve been documenting for weeks, although the mainstream media can’t seem to be bothered – has been rebuffed for now.

With government doing the things it actually needs to be (or should be) doing, I think Governor Dayton just got chopped off at the knees.

9 thoughts on “Dayton: Rejected

  1. Enter a picture of Manic Depressive Mark, dressed as Snidley Whiplash. He has 2 nursing home patients and 14 welfare moms and a few inmates at St Peter tied to the railroad tracks. Suddenly, you hear a train whistle. Manic Mark twists his handlebar mustache in glee, savoring the moment.

    As the train rounds the bend, you see a Ramsey County judge move to the train’s controls and slam on the breaks. Dejected, Manic Mark stares down at the ground and utters: “Curses! Foiled again!”

  2. Pingback: Judge Gearin’s Ruling a Loss for Gov. Dayton

  3. I’m not sure how this is a good decision. It seems to me that the courts should have refused to hear the case on the grounds that this is a “political question” and/or upheld the requirement in our State constitution that all appropriations have to be made by the Legislature. This is basically the courts usurping the power that is reserved for our democratically-elected Legislature and governor.

    Moreover when you think through the reasoning, we now have opened the door for the courts to essentially order future legislatures to increase K-12 funding if the level is not “adequate” and this novel interpretation of the Supremacy Clause as mandating that States fund federal programs. So basically any efforts to opt out of Obamacare or roll back its early implementation were pretty much kneecapped today.

    So no, as a libertarian/conservative who values popular sovereignty over being ruled by the courts, who favors federalism over central planning and thinks that the level of government spending in Minnesota needs to be decreased rather than increased, I do not see today’s ruling as a good thing at all.

  4. The Revenue Department would keep a skeleton crew – 40 of its 1,400 employees – on the job to collect taxes, but it wouldn’t send taxpayer refunds, including about $90 million scheduled to be paid to 70,000 renters next month.”

    Note: The Circuit-breaker checks for renters are supposed to be out by mid August and are used by many renters for “back to school” supplies. (Homeowner credits go out in mid-October). The renter payments are based on property taxes paid as part of rent and income. More renters than homeowners tend to be democratic. The payment is largest for lower income renter of housing that is not subsidized. The larger refunds to lower income are more important to them than people with higher income. Market renters with lower incomes (IE: tend to vote democratic) are at times LITERALLY banking on this mid August money.

    The payments to homeowners is scheduled for mid October. The logic here is that it can be used to pay second half-property taxes due 10-17-11. If a late penalty is applied because people depended on the circuit breaker homestead refund here is the penalty schedule.

    Basically renters will be affected worse than homeowners by payment delays. The renters are more likely to be vote democratic.

  5. Judge Gearin did not break new ground, she followed the reasoning of courts that had addressed prior shut-downs. Her basic requirement is essential state activities are mandatory because the Federal government requires them (such as passing through welfare payments) or protect life (zookeepers to feed the animals, prison guards, Veteran’s Home staff, troopers, etc.)

    Things that are not federally mandated and aren’t directly involved in life safety are not essential – these are money matters the Legislature and Governor can fight out in the budget. Yes, failure to send tax refunds will pinch, but nobody dies so it’s not essential.

    I’m as hard-core Right as anybody and I can find ways to quibble with the list of essentials (a State Bison Herd? We have a State Bison Herd – and feeding it is essential? – how did that happen?) but on the whole, she did a credible job of doing the very bare minimum necessary to keep civilized society running while pointedly letting the pain flow back to the Legislature and the Governor where it belongs.


  6. Thorley,

    I’m with you on the higher principle. But as a pragmatic matter – and since our system does scamper off to court on the slightly provocation – I’ll take it.

  7. //I’ll chalk it up to carelessness, and continue.

    May 16th news release from Minnesota Republican Party:

    Following today’s press conference during which House and Senate Republicans stood united in their resolve to hold the line on taxes and new sources of revenue to balance the budget, Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton issued the following statement:

    “By standing firm for sensible government living within its means on a sustainable budget, House and Senate Republicans are keeping the promise of prosperity they made to Minnesotans,” said Sutton. “We live free; we live better.”

    “For too long, ‘compromise’ in budget debates in a DFL-dominated Legislature have been about just how much government will grow,” said Sutton. “‘Compromise’ has meant a hard-fought battle for a tax increase slightly less than the DFL wanted, which of course was the starting point for the next ‘compromise’ to the left. Responding to Minnesotans who said ‘we’re taxed enough already’ this group of Republican legislators is saying ‘enough is enough’ and standing firm against tax rate and revenue increases.”

    “Democrats are saying that Gov. Dayton was elected to raise revenue,” added Sutton, “but let’s remember: Outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul Dayton lost the election by 6 percent. His victory margin came out of just two Congressional Districts that eat up most of the excessive spending. The majority of Minnesota, represented by the House and Senate Republicans today, stand with the GOP: No new taxes. No new revenue.

  8. Who actually confirms that the state follows the judge’s orders relative to the shutdown? I’ve heard from a friend that works in state government that several co-workers have been ruled “critical” even though their departments are not listed in the judge’s ruling.

  9. “The Revenue Department would keep a skeleton crew – 40 of its 1,400 employees – on the job to collect taxes”

    I’d call that a battle won….on with the war.

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