With Gov. (for 19 more months) Tim Pawlenty about to start chopping state spending with his unilateral unallotment powers, some legislators are wondering if there should be limits to that power.
Several Bemidji-area legislators talked about it Tuesday at a Chamber of Commerce forum, said the Bemidji Pioneer.
While Democrats tend to favor the end of unallotment, the lone Republican in the group, Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, talked about limits.
“Even if it’s a Democrat governor and a Republican-controlled House, I would still want the governor to have that little bit of an ace up his sleeve,” Howes said. “I really think that does help. Putting a limit on what they can unallot would stop them from taking that process to the next level because they can’t complete the job. They’d have to call a special session.”
Howes said he’d like to see a limit of 4 percent or less of the General Fund eligible for unallotment, and would like to specify where the money could come from.
“Changing it a little bit and limiting the power would be a good idea,” Howes said. “Taking it away would be vetoed by a governor.”
Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, noted that the governor’s powers to unallot — or take back legislatively appropriated funds — was designed for an emergency situation toward the end of a biennium to balance the budget, and has never before been used to balance a new budget as a biennium begins.
“It’s a continual erosion of the Legislature’s jurisdiction,” Skoe said. “There will be efforts to change this in the future. Whoever is governor, no matter the party, is going to veto it.”
Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, said a bill was introduced in the waning hours of the session to change the unallotment powers, but it never gained traction.
“Already there was indignation and a bill to do this,” Sailer said. “I think we will be looking at it again because the unallotment was put in place … to be a stopgap, to deal with a problem in between sessions. This clearly is not what happened this time around.”