Interesting Briefs Filed on Unallotment

On Monday, March 15, at 9:00 AM the Minnesota Supreme Court will address the arguments for and against the unallotments made to the budget by Governor Pawlenty.

In a Friend of the Court Brief from the League of Minnesota Cities, an argument is made that the legislature, when passing the unallotment statute in 1939, does not intend a result that is absurd or unreasonable. Basically, courts shouldn’t allow an absurd interpretation of legislation when a reasonable one can be applied. Quoting from page 23 of the brief:

if unallotment authority can be triggered based on purely subjective standards, a governor could hypothetically choose to unallot an appropriation that he first rejected using his line-item veto even after the legislature has voted to override that veto. Or a governor could hypothetically choose to unallot and reorder appropriation priorities based on any type of report demonstrating a decline in receipts by as little as $ 1. Finally, it is truly absurd to think that the legislature would have ever intended to relinquish its constitutional power of appropriation to the executive branch at the beginning of the biennium when there has simply been a breakdown in budget negotiations.

In another Friend of the Court brief filed by the Minnesota House of Representatives, the argument is made that the Governor exceeded his constitutional authority. Page 18 quotes the Constitution:

Because the power to veto is located in article IV, the power “is an exception to the authority granted to the legislature” and “must be narrowly construed to prevent an unwarranted usurpation by the executive powers granted the legislature in the first instance.”

The brief filed on behalf of the Governor argues in turn that

At their core, these arguments attempt to impose requirements – such as the statute only applies to small, unanticipated deficits arising late in the biennium – found nowhere in section l6A.152. Respondents and amici rely on purported conditions in the statute that simply do not exist.

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