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Minnesota Supreme Court rules against Governor on unallotment

“Pawlenty thought he was a king. Now he is just pathetic.”
By staff |
May 5, 2010
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Linden Gawboy speaking out for a moratorium on home foreclosures.
Linden Gawboy speaking out for a moratorium on home foreclosures. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Fight Back! interviewed Linden Gawboy, a leader of the Welfare Rights Committee and the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout on the implications of the May 5 Minnesota Supreme Court decision limiting Governor Pawlenty’s power of unallotment. Gawboy has been involved with fighting for low-income people at the Minnesota state legislature for over 15 years.

Fight Back!: Could you give us some background on the Supreme Court ruling on Pawlenty’s allotments?

Linden Gawboy: In the spring of 2009, the legislature sent Governor Pawlenty spending bills, as usual. Then they sent him a tax bill to pay for the spending. Pawlenty vetoed the tax bill.

Since that left the state without enough money, Pawlenty just randomly romped through the entire state budget, picking programs to eliminate so the budget would be in balance, taxing and spending-wise.

No governor had done that before. Pawlenty said he was using ‘unallotment,’ a power that the governor does have in certain situations, but it has never been used like this.

Fortunately, Legal Aid filed a lawsuit against the crazy actions of the governor. The lawsuit basically said that the governor acted illegally in his unallotments. Today, the state Supreme Court agreed.

On a side note, the Welfare Rights Committee waited for weeks while all the big-money forces who lost big bucks, like the hospitals, did nothing - they didn’t have the courage to file a lawsuit against the governor. It took lawyers advocating for the poor to defend a small nutrition program for the poor to do the deed.

Fight Back!: How does the ruling change the political situation at the legislature?

Gawboy: It puts the Democrats (DFL) in a complicated position. They have been pussy-footing around the fact that the state will always be in a mess until there is there is tax system that makes the rich pay more. As we tried to pass our foreclosure moratorium it became clearer to everyone that a lot DFL senators and representatives represent the banks and big corporations.

With the power of unallotment limited or gone, the Republicans have lost the power to dictate the state budget. So their overall position is much weaker. With the power of unallotment, Pawlenty thought he was a king. Now he is just pathetic.

Today’s decision changes all the budget numbers, adding $2.7 billion to the state deficit. Already, the budget proposals out there balance the state budget on the backs of poor and working people. Leaving the governor’s and the Republicans’ whacked-out proposals aside, the Democrats have already proposed terrible cuts. They are stealing nearly $30 million from welfare funds, slashing programs for the mentally ill and turning nursing homes into death camps.

Fight Back!: What do you think could happen in the months ahead?

Gawboy: The legislative session ends May 17. Governor Pawlenty will be presented with spending bills and a tax bill. Ideally, the Democrats will seize this opportunity to solve the budget without the cuts and by taxing the rich - that’s unlikely. Most likely, the governor will veto the bills. If the legislature doesn’t choose to override the vetoes, then the state will head into a ‘government shutdown’ on July 1. But, after May 17, the governor - and only the governor - could call the legislature back into a so-called special session.

But, in any case, the main thing is, everything from our past experience shows that poor and working people will be sold out. We have to fight back. The Welfare Rights Committee and the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout will be planning actions. We know that Governor Pawlenty got his wings clipped. We know that many of the dems ‘say’ they are on our side. It’s time to fight. At this point, we have nothing to lose.