Winkler: Courts can’t appropriate money

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, is taking issue with an effort to ask a judge to step in and keep some government services running if state government shuts down on July 1.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is asking a district court judge to rule that some government services should continue if state government shuts down on July 1. Swanson filed a petition today in Ramsey County Court asking a judge to grant authority to continue funding “essential services” like prisons, public safety and health care for the poor, elderly and disabled.

Winkler says he believes the petition is more sweeping than previous requests. He says the petition seeks too much power for cities, counties, state agencies and other units of government.

“This petition says each government unit can define for itself what a core function is,” Winkler said. “And they present a bill to the state and the state has to pay it. So this is putting a small check on how money would be spent.”

Winkler also questions whether it’s constitutional for a judge to fund government agencies. He says that’s the job of the Legislature and the governor.

“The Minnesota Constitution requires the Legislature and the governor to compromise and pass a balanced budget,” Winkler said. “The idea that powers should be separated into three branches, and that each branch should serve as a check on the other branches, is fundamental to our system of government.”

The courts did step in and appropriate money during the partial government shutdown in 2005. A lawsuit was filed to challenge the constitutionality of the process but the Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected the challenge on constitutional grounds.

The court ruled that the lawsuit should have been filed earlier since then Gov. Pawlenty and the Legislature resolved their budget impasse before the court could act on it.

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