Breaking news! Court rules against un-allottment! Pandemonium ensues, DFL celebrates, dogs and cats live peacefully together! OK, the part about dogs and cats was made up. But seriously, what changed today?
Did the court rule that un-allottment was unconstitutional? Nope. They ruled that it was wrong to use it prior to the budget biennium being targeted.
Will the state now be obligated to spend the $2.7 billion that Pawlenty cut from the budget? Well, maybe if we had a few spare billion laying around, we could have that conversation. But the DFL led legislature can't even figure out how to cut half a billion from this year's budget, let alone trying to figure out how to cut more than $3 billion.
Will Pawlenty suffer politically for this? Not with his conservative base. The court ruled that he stretched his authority, but most conservatives understand that he did what needed to be done. The DFL led legislature could find no way to solve the budget dilemma without massive tax increases, and when the session came down to the wire, they punted the whole issue to the governor's office and dared him to veto the tax increases. Pawlenty found a loophole that allowed for the only sane alternative-cut the state's massive and bloated budget.
Will the DFL benefit from this ruling? It is hard to see how. The DFL legislature now has four basic choices. 1) Ratify Pawlenty's cuts retroactively, 2) Make their own set of $2.7 billion in budget cuts, 3) Raise taxes across the state by $2.7 billion to fund the programs that were cut, or 4) Some combination of the first three choices. Any of these choices will have consequences for the DFL, but choice number 1 will be the easiest to sweep under the rug and forget about. Throw some money at some of the more high profile programs and cut here or there to make up for it. Remember, state agencies have already spent almost a year planning for these cuts. So it will be easier to stick with what is already done.
A massive tax raise right now will catapult the Minnesota Tea Party movement through the roof, and will mean a good chance of the GOP taking control of both the House and Senate and keeping the governor's office. (That it by the way, Mr Joe Bodell, what Tom Emmer means when he says we will take back the state.) It would also play in Republican favor for the US Congressional races, and Rep Tim Walz for one is already stooping under the weight of the federal deficit albatross hanging around his neck.
The biggest loser in this court ruling? Margaret Anderson Kelliher. She now faces a no-win scenario, the ultimate Kobyashi Maru. She can either preside over a legislative session that cuts $2.7 billion from the budget (whether they stick with the cuts already made or come up with their own is mostly a moot point) or she can preside over a session that sees a massive tax increase so large that those evil rich people in Minnesota can't pay the whole thing. So she either angers her base (who she still needs for the August primary) or she angers the average Minnesotan, who she needs in November.
While I do feel sorry for our legislators in St Paul who will no doubt be burning the midnight oil for a while (as well as burning through plenty of Maalox), it will be an interesting few weeks for political activists in Minnesota.