Court-ordered cooperation?

The Minnesota Supreme Court recognized the right of Gov. Mark Dayton to use the line item veto, even to totally defund the Minnesota Legislature. The court, however, ordered the two sides in the lawsuit over Dayton’s unprecedented veto to find a mediator by Tuesday and work out their differences.

If they could work out their differences, they wouldn’t have been arguing before the Supreme Court about who did what to whom.

Sadly, politics these days is not the art of persuasion, it is the art of coercion. Republicans in the Legislature wanted the governor to sign their tax bill, so instead of negotiating one that was agreeable to all, they stuck a land mine into another bill that would remove funding for the state Revenue Department if he vetoed the tax bill. Dayton, who didn’t like the tax bill, used the line item veto on the legislative funding to coerce Republicans back to the negotiating table to rework it. And so it goes.

The court seemed reluctant to insert itself into this dispute unless absolutely necessary, and said it will appoint a mediator if the two sides can’t agree to one by Tuesday.

With respect to the court, we don’t see how it doesn’t find this line-item veto to be an abuse of the governor’s power. If the governor can just cut the funding for other branches of government that disagree with him, it gives him a truly potent weapon to use in any dispute. We wonder what kind of give and take there will be in any tax bill negotiation when the governor holds the power of the purse over the Legislature. What happens when the court issues a decision he doesn’t like? Will he be able to veto funding for the courts?

The three sectors of state government are supposed to be separate but equal. This decision tilts the balance dramatically toward the Administration, even if it does include a directive to work out their differences.

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