June 27 (Reuters) - A judge on Tuesday ordered the state of Minnesota to fund its legislature until Oct. 1 while litigation challenging a gubernatorial veto works its way through the legal system.
Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge John Guthmann also ordered the state Senate to make rent and debt service payments for an office building and parking garage.
Democratic Governor Mark Dayton touched off the legal battle with his line-item veto of funding for the Republican-controlled state legislature in the fiscal 2018-2019 biennial budget.
Lawmakers sued Dayton earlier this month, claiming his May 30 veto of nearly $130 million for salaries, benefits and operating expenses was unconstitutional.
The veto left $80.1 million of certificates of participation issued in 2014 for the office facility without an appropriation for rental and debt payments next due in November and December. It also led to a warning of a possible downgrade of Minnesota’s AA-plus general obligation rating by S&P Global Ratings if debt payments are not made.
Fitch Ratings said Minnesota’s AAA rating was not in jeopardy.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he hoped the lawsuit will be fast-tracked to the state supreme court to receive a final ruling by Oct. 1.
“This court order will temporarily prevent further damage to the state’s credit rating and allow the legislature to function temporarily while the courts determine the unconstitutionality of Governor Dayton’s actions,” he said in a statement
Dayton and legislative leaders on Friday told the court they agreed to temporarily fund the legislature. In Tuesday’s order, the judge set spending at fiscal 2017 levels. (Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)