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Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton this afternoon blamed House Speaker (and DFL gubernatorial candidate) Margaret Anderson Kelliher and her party for the potentially disastrous consequences of today's state Supreme Court ruling that Gov. Tim Pawlenty overstepped his unallotment authority last year.

Updated: GOP asks, ‘What now, Margaret?’

Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (Staff file photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton this afternoon blamed House Speaker (and DFL gubernatorial candidate) Margaret Anderson Kelliher and her party for the potentially disastrous consequences of today’s state Supreme Court ruling that Gov. Tim Pawlenty overstepped his unallotment authority last year.

“What now, Margaret?” Sutton’s statement was headlined.

“The Republican Party of Minnesota unequivocally opposes today’s 4-3 ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court and believes it represents the worst in judicial activism,” Sutton said. “Now the onus for balancing the budget lies squarely with Margaret Anderson Kelliher and the big-spending, Democrat-controlled Legislature.

“Kelliher and the DFL failed to produce a balanced budget last year, and now that failure is coming back to haunt the taxpayers of Minnesota. Raising taxes on families and businesses is the last thing Minnesotans need right now. Since Kelliher failed to balance the budget in the first place, it’s time for her to explain in detail how she plans to pay for $2.7 billion in new spending when the state is broke.”

Senate Minority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, also expressed his displeasure in the court’s ruling — and lobbed brickbats at Kelliher.

“Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher and the House DFL majority went to court and were rewarded with the ruling they desired,” Senjem said in a statement. “They now have a leadership responsibility to solve the budget deficit that the ruling dramatically compounded.”

Senjem noted that “nearly 90 percent of the 2010 session has passed us by, and the DFL-controlled Legislature has failed to present a comprehensive budget plan, as the governor did nearly three months ago.”

“With less than two weeks to go, the Senate DFL majority is just now releasing their health and human services and K-12 budget plans. It is imperative that the MInnesota Senate move to balance the budget as we are constitutionally obligated to do.”

Kelliher released a statement through her gubernatorial campaign this afternoon, praising the court’s ruling.

“Once again, the courts have affirmed that Gov. Pawlenty acted unconstitutionally by walking away from the table and turning his back on the Legislature and the people of Minnesota during a challenging budget crisis,” she said, noting that “this is exactly why I’m running for governor.”

“As speaker, I offered three balanced budgets and fought to protect Minnesota’s priorities. As governor, I will work with the Legislature to create a balanced budget that strengthens Minnesota, protects our values and moves our state forward on the on the road to economic recovery.”

Kelliher’s newly endorsed Republican opponent for the governor’s office, Tom Emmer, reacted later this afternoon to the ruling.

In an e-mail sent to supporters, Emmer echoed Sutton’s “judicial activism” criticism.

“In the latest example of judicial activism, the Minnesota Supreme Court … took it upon itself to rewrite the unallotment statute to [its] liking by adding conditions on the executive branch that do not exist in the current statute,” Emmer said.

“The law requires the governor to balance the budget. The law requires the governor to prepare a budget forecast as part of the budget-balancing process. The law requires the governor to use unallotment after exhausting other means if revenues do not meet expenditures. The law is clear, and Gov. Pawlenty followed the law.”

Emmer accused the high court of “[changing] the law in midstream by adding a time constraint to when the governor could exercise his unallotment powers.”

“Instead of acting as politicians, we need judges that will make decisions by applying the letter of the law to the facts. It is now up to Speaker Kelliher, Majority Leader [Larry] Pogemiller and the DFL-controlled Legislature to reinstate the unallotments in order to fix the budget hole created by their failure to produce a balanced budget in 2009.”

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman praised the ruling and slammed Pawlenty: “The Supreme Court has rightly rejected the governor’s go-it-alone strategy that has marked his eight years in office. While that approach may have served his presidential ambitions, it has not served the people of our state.

“Minnesotans are tired of political games; they want realistic solutions. They want police officers on their streets and good teachers in their classrooms. Today’s ruling is a call to action for the governor to return to the table and work with the Legislature to get the job done.”

Coleman’s across-the-river counterpart, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (who lost the DFL gubernatorial nomination to Kelliher last month), checked in later this afternoon.

“The Supreme Court decision today restores proper balance between the executive and legislative branches,” Rybak said. “It does not, however, alter the reality that the state of Minnesota is in a deep fiscal crisis.

“At moments like these, Minnesotans have a right to expect that all sides at the Capitol will demonstrate the highest level of statesmanship and will come together around a unified vision for our state.”

Shar Knutson, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, also called on the governor and the Legislature to come up with a solution quickly.

“The court’s decision gives the governor and the Legislature a second chance to get it right and agree to a balanced approach in addressing Minnesota’s budget crisis,” Knutson said in a statement. “Minnesota can no longer afford to continue the path of crumbling infrastructure, growing class sizes, shrinking community services and higher property taxes.

“It’s time for our policymakers to take bold and decisive action on a budget to grow family-sustaining jobs and make taxes fair for middle-class Minnesotans.”

Brian Melendez, chair of the state DFL Party, added his praise of the court decision.

“The Supreme Court today affirmed what we have said all along — the governor’s unallotments are unlawful,” Melendez said in a statement this afternoon. “The shortsighted, unilateral action was simply an overreaching political strategy by Gov. Pawlenty after he refused to work with the Legislature.

“With this decision, it has become even clearer that Minnesotans need new, balanced leadership in St. Paul. Minnesotans need a governor who will bring state leaders to the table to forge compromises and craft forward-thinking policy that will create a better future for Minnesota.”

David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, echoed those suggested that the Legislature take another look at Pawlenty’s 2009 unallotments and consider reinstating them.

“While some at the Capitol are celebrating the Supreme Court decision as an opening to raise taxes, this is not the time to do so,” Olson said in a statement. “Increasing the tax burden on the private sector will not lead to job creation.

“Minnesota businesses are just beginning to emerge from the recession. The Legislature should do nothing to hamper their recovery. Lawmakers instead should give strong consideration to the cuts and shifts outlined by the governor last summer.”

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