Governor Pawlenty says he plans to appeal a judge’s ruling that restores funding for a $5.3 million food program that he cut earlier this year. A Ramsey County judge ruled yesterday that Pawlenty overstepped his legal authority by unilaterally cutting money for the program. The ruling only affects the program but could have broader implications on the state budget. Pawlenty said this morning that the judge misapplied and misinterpreted the law:
“At worst, the statute is unclear in a few respects and the judge could have avoided weighing into this situation by indicating that the statute is unclear and directing or suggesting recommending that the Legislature and governor clarify the statute. Instead, she has now inserted herself, the judge has inserted herself into the middle of a political dispute.”
Pawlenty said he will ask Democrats who control the Legislature to agree to formalize a $1.7 billion delay in payments to schools. He also didn’t rule out making additional cuts on his own to resolve the state’s ongoing budget problems.
Here’s the video of the first portion of his news conference:
Here’s the q and a with reporters (I apologize that you can’t hear the questions):
Update: DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who is also running for governor, said she isn’t surprised Pawlenty is appealing the ruling. But she said it will be problamatic if Pawlenty won’t agree to tax increases to balance the budget:
“I think it’s going to be difficult all around if that’s going to be the governor’s position. If he’s going to stay stuck in a ditch in deep snow, spinning his tires on something that is not going to move the state forward.”
Here’s my interview with her:
GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers praised Pawlenty for appealing the decision. He predicted a difficult session if Democrats in the Legislature don’t stop pushing tax increases:
“We are in this position because of failed leadership by the DFL in the 2009 Legislative Session and their inability to produce a fiscally responsible budget. We should be using the 2010 session to improve Minnesota’s job climate and expand economic opportunity, but now it appears we will still have to deal with the budget problems Democrats were unwilling and unable to address last session,” said Zellers in a news release.
Here’s my interview with him:
Update: A spokesman for Senate DFLers declined comment and declined to make anyone else available on Pawlenty’s statement because they haven’t received anything in writing from Pawlenty and didn’t see his news conference.
Update: Here’s the text of Pawlenty’s letter to DFL legislative leaders:
As I mentioned in my press conference earlier today, I am recommending that the legislature enact and that I sign into law the school payment deferral already in operation for FY 2010-2011. The legislature has previously expressed support for this deferral, and I am therefore optimistic that we can reach an agreement.
While any agreement between us could be enacted during the regular legislative session, judicial direction may impose a greater sense of urgency requiring earlier action. If such circumstances arise, I am willing to consider calling a brief special session strictly limited to this issue if we can reach a prior agreement.
Your prompt response to this request would be appreciated in light of the acute fiscal crisis the state faces.
In the meantime, Chris DeLaForest, my Director of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs, will be contacting your office to arrange a meeting to discuss these matters further.