Benson: Governor Dayton’s attack on the Legislature is unconstitutional

Many of you are aware of the controversy between the governor and the Legislature. House and Senate Republicans worked hard to find agreements with the governor to complete a state budget and finish the 2017 session, but after reaching these agreements, the governor had a change of heart: he signed every budget bill, but used his veto authority to eliminate funding for the House and Senate.

To put it plainly, his veto is nothing less than an attack on the foundation of our Republic.

You don’t need to be a Constitutional scholar to understand why it is illegal. If you have taken a middle school civics class, you know that there are three equal branches of government, and each exists to serve as a check upon the other. In Minnesota’s Constitution, it’s all right there in Article III, plain enough for everyone to understand.

The governor attempting to hold a co-equal branch of government hostage due to political squabbles sets a dangerous precedent. Imagine a scenario in which the Legislature threatened to eliminate funding to the Judicial Branch unless the Supreme Court reconsidered a ruling. None of the three branches will be able to serve the people effectively if they are worried about being shut down over their decisions.

If the governor’s attack on the Legislature is allowed to stand, then the branch of government that is closest to the people will cease to function. The Legislature won’t be able to carry out core functions, like meeting with constituents to hear ideas for law changes, maintaining a web site to keep the public informed, or even simply conducting the day-to-day business of government. The Legislature won’t even be able to turn on the lights. Your voice, and the voice of 5 million other Minnesotans, will be silenced.

The Governor says this is about compromise. Both sides already did that, and the result was a sustainable, positive budget for Minnesotans. It’s not about policy disagreements. It’s not even about Republicans and Democrats. This is about something far bigger.

The governor’s aggressive political move jeopardizes not only the institution of the Legislature, but the integrity of our entire system of government. It fundamentally undermines the Constitution.

Unfortunately, there is only one way to stop the governor’s attempt to shut the House and Senate, and that’s with an expensive taxpayer-funded lawsuit. I’m confident the Courts will rule against the governor, but that near-certain outcome does not change the fact that it all could have been avoided.


Senator Michelle Benson