Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature
Skip Navigation Links > > >

Last reviewed August 2018

Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
Unallotment

This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.

Legislative History    Books and Reports    Articles    Internet Resources    Additional Library Resources

The executive branch's ability to utilize emergency budget reduction powers goes back to at least 1939 in Minnesota. Governor Harold Stassen proposed the ability to reduce or unallot the budget under certain circumstances in his 1939 budget address. That same year the Minnesota Legislature made the provision law with the passage of Laws of Minnesota, 1939, Chapter 431, article 2, section 16.

Although the ability to unallot existed this far back, no evidence exists to suggest that unallotment was utilized prior to Governor Quie. Over the past thirty years, the unallotment procedure has been used by three governors: Al Quie in 1980 ($195 million) and in 1981 (local government aid payments were unallotted in November and December 1981 and were reallotted and paid by February 26, 1982), Rudy Perpich in 1986 ($109 million), and Tim Pawlenty in 2003 ($281 million), 2008 ($269 million), and 2009 ($2.68 billion).

Governor Tim Pawlenty's 2009 unallotment plan to balance Minnesota's fiscal year 2010-11 budget was unique in that it was implemented at the beginning of a budget cycle. Due to this, beginning in May 2009 and continuing into 2010, bills were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature to modify the unallotment law.

The first lawsuit challenging this use of unallotment was filed in Ramsey County District Court in July 2009 but was dismissed by Judge Kathleen Gearin on January 11, 2010. (A later appeal was also dismissed on December 28, 2010.) A second lawsuit was filed in late October 2009. The House Rules Committee voted to file an amicus curiae brief in support of the second legal challenge on November 16, 2009. On December 30, 2009, Judge Kathleen Gearin of the Ramsey County District Court filed a temporary restraining order, related to the second lawsuit, prohibiting the state from reducing allotments to a dietary program. Her final ruling was scheduled to be issued in March 2010.

Several more court briefs were filed related to the second lawsuit. In mid-February, Governor Tim Pawlenty filed a brief, an amicus brief was filed by several legislators, and another amicus brief was filed by two constitutional law professors. More court briefs were filed in late February. Mid-Minnesota Legal Services filed a brief, several cities and city organizations filed a brief, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters filed a brief, and the respondents also filed an amicus brief. The last brief was filed by Governor Pawlenty's legal team. The Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 15, 2010. The decision, announced May 5, 2010 states that, "use of the unallotment power to address the unresolved deficit exceeded the authority granted to the executive branch."

The 2009 unallotment plan included a section to eliminate the funding for the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program. In an effort to prevent this, legislation was introduced during the 2010 legislative session modifying the GAMC program. The bill passed both the House and Senate but was vetoed by Governor Pawlenty. The veto was overridden by the Senate but failed to be overridden in the House. On March 4, 2010, attorneys from Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance helped file a third lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court. It questioned the legality of the unallotments and included a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the implementation of the GAMC unallotment. Legislative leaders and the Governor announced that they were able to come to agreement on the issue of GAMC benefits on March 5, 2010. The compromise, reflected in House File 802 and Senate File 460, continues GAMC in its current form for several months, a coordinated care system will take its place after June 1. It passed as 2010 Minnesota Laws chapter 200.

Legislative History

Laws of Minnesota, 1939, Chapter 431, article 2, section 16

Minnesota Statute 16A.152 (subd. 4)

Significant Books and Reports

Approved Unallotments & Administrative Actions: General Fund by Omnibus Bill and Agency. St. Paul: Minnesota Management & Budget, 2009. (HJ2053.M6 G688 2009)

Proposed Unallotments & Administrative Actions: General Fund by Omnibus Bill and Agency. St. Paul: Minnesota Management & Budget, 2009. (HJ2053.M6 G682 2009)

Budget Message of Governor Harold E. Stassen (February 1, 1939). St. Paul: Governor, 1939. (HJ11 .M6425b 1939/41)

Deanna Brayton, et al., Plaintiffs vs. Tim Pawlenty, et al., Defendants : Amicus Curiae Brief From the Minnesota House of Representatives in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order. (KFM5825 .D43 2009)

FY 2009 Reductions Under M.S. 16A.152, Subdivision 4: General Fund. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Finance, 2009. (HJ2053.M6 .G683 2009)

FY 2003 Reductions Under M.S. 16A.152, Subdivision 4: General Fund. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Finance, 2003. (HJ11 .M6425a 2002/2003)

Kiedrowski, Jay. [Letter] October 30, 1986, to Gaylin Den Ouden. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Finance, 1986. (HJ2053.M6 G694 1986)

LaFleur, Robbie. Historical Use of Unallotment. St. Paul: Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, 2009.

Letter to Governor Pawlenty Regarding Unallotment. St. Paul: Minnesota Management & Budget, June 16, 2009.

Marx, Bill. Fiscal Year 2003 Budget Reductions: Legislative Proposals and Governor's Final Unallotments. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, Fiscal Analysis Department, 2003.

Massman, Matt. Governor's Unallotments FY 2008-2009 General Fund Budget. (Fiscal Issue Brief) St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis, 2009.

Michael, Joel, and Mark Shepard. Unallotment: Executive Branch Power to Reduce Spending to Avoid a Deficit. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, House Research Department, 2010. (KFM5825.Z9 M53 2010)

Miles, Mike. [Letter] April 15, 1981, to Wayne S. Burggraaff.. St. Paul: Office of the Attorney General, 1981. (HJ2053.M6 G693 1981)

Minnesota Management & Budget Unallotment Summary: FY 2011 Agency Operating: General Fund Unless Otherwise Noted (Third Notice of Allotment Reductions Pursuant to M.S. 16A.152, Subd. 4). St. Paul: Minnesota Management & Budget, August 14, 2009. (HJ2053.M6 G692 2009 )

Notice of Reductions Under M.S. 16A.152, Subd. 4. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Finance, 2003. (HJ11 .M6425a 2002/2003)

Proposed Unallotments & Administrative Actions 2009. St. Paul: Minnesota Management & Budget, 2009.

Quie, Albert H. Opening Statement. St. Paul: Office of the Governor, 1980. (J87 .M62 1980 Ag. 20)

Report of Allotment Reducations (Unallotments), M.S. 16A.152, Subdivision 4: General Fund, Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2009. St. Paul: Minnesota Mannagement & Budget, 2009. (HJ2053.M6 G684 2009)

Unallotment in Minnesota: Selected Background Materials Notebook. Table of Contents (includes links to documents with specific unallotment amounts). St. Paul: Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, 2009.

Wattson, Peter. Legislative History of Unallotment Power. St. Paul: Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis, 2009. (KFM5825 .W38 2009a)

Wattson, Peter. Unallotment Conflict in Minnesota 2009-2010. St. Paul: Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis, 2010. (HJ2053.M6 W39 2010)

Significant Articles

(articles in reverse chronological order)

Ostberg, Patty. "Unallotment Upheaval." Session Weekly, St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives Information Office, February 18, 2010.

Black, Eric. "Court Hears 'Unallotment' Case: How Much Power Does the Governor Have?" MinnPost, November 16, 2009.

"Governor's FY 2010-11 Unallotment and Other Administrative Actions." Money Matters, September, 2009.

Perry, Steve. "Q&A: A Brief History of Item Veto and Unallotment Powers in Minnesota [with Joel Michael]." Politics in Minnesota, May 27, 2009.

van Dyck, Brenda. "A Little-Used Tool in the Toolbox." Session Weekly, St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives Information Office, May 2, 2008.

Articles from 1939:

Folwick, Orlin. "Senate Seeks Bigger Cut in State Budget." Minneapolis Tribune, February 2, 1939.

Ball, Joseph H. "Legislature Hears Budget Message." St. Paul Pioneer Press, February 1, 1939.

Significant Internet Resources

Minnesota Management & Budget

Additional Library Resources

For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File: B30.4

For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches:
Unallotment

Issue Guides

Agriculture and Natural Resources

Children, Youth, and Families

Crime

Demographics

Education

Legislature

Mining

Miscellaneous

Redistricting

Sports

State Government Budget and Programs

Transportation