Gov. Tim Pawlenty "crossed the line" when he unilaterally cut some $2.7 billion in state funds this summer to balance Minnesota's budget, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Technically, the ruling by Chief Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin reinstates a sliver of Pawlenty's cuts — part of a $5.3 million food program for the poor — but her words could have greater ramifications.
The ruling threatens to undo Pawlenty's "unallotment," a dismantling of parts of state programs approved by the Legislature as part of the 2010-11 budget process. However, Gearin urged the Legislature and governor to work out their differences when lawmakers convene Feb. 4 for the 2010 session. Another court hearing is scheduled for March 1.
Unallotment itself isn't unconstitutional, Gearin ruled, but how Pawlenty used it "trod upon the constitutional power of the Legislature."
"The authority of the governor to unallot is an authority intended to save the state in times of a previously unforeseen budget crisis," Gearin wrote. "It is not meant to be used as a weapon by the executive branch to break a stalemate in budget negotiations with the Legislature or to rewrite the appropriations bill."
Gearin wrote that Pawlenty "crossed the line between legitimate exercise of his authority to unallot and interference with the legislative power to make laws."
Democrats declared it a victory.
"Today's ruling represents a victory for all Minnesotans concerned about the
Gearin on Wednesday granted their request for a temporary restraining order that should result in the state paying out roughly a quarter of the $5.3 million in cuts to the program within two weeks, according to court papers and Galen Robinson, the attorney who handled the case for the plaintiffs.
"On behalf of our clients, we're just elated," said Robinson, litigation director of Mid Minnesota Legal Assistance. "What this decision really means is they're going to be able to buy the food they need to be healthy."
Robinson and Kelliher said Gearin's ruling could open the door for other would-be recipients of funds Pawlenty unallotted to bring suit.
But Kelliher said she hoped the governor and legislators could agree on a budget before such cases make it very far into the court system. "Hopefully, we can come together as Minnesotans to really be equal partners in problem-solving," she said.
In her ruling, Gearin said that wasn't an enviable task.
"Difficult decisions that will be painful to many citizens will have to be made by the executive and legislative branches in order to deal with the continuing budget crisis in this state," she wrote. "Those budget and policy decisions are not the business of the courts unless they are made in a way that violates the Constitution."
That could mean many of the programs Pawlenty unallotted still will end up getting no state funds.
"We don't have a crystal ball," Robinson said. "We don't know what the outcome will be."
Emily Gurnon contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press. Dave Orrick can be reached at 651-292-1159.
Disclaimer: Affiant Sharon Scarrella Anderson Political Activist and Prisioner 1997
In the Process of Reading Files:
http://www.mncourts.gov/district/2/... HOPEFULLY GEARIN must be on the HOT SEAT IN HER Official Capacity of Chief Judge Ramsey Co, but also in her SECRET CAPACITY AS COMMITTMENT JUDGE, on the SCAP Panel
Has Gearin overstepped her Judicial Authority by legislating from the bench, her apparant Conflict, Committing numerous persons with Drug Alcohol,Drug Addictions with Special Diets etc.
Food Allowance to the State Institutions,Prison's etc. over and above a few indiviuals.
What the Secret Committment Court has Cost the State of MN is incomprehensible re: www.lufsky.blogspot.com Death,Disability,Disparagment of Titles re Intestate Decedant www.cpljimanderson.blogspot.com