Governor, leaders: short session soon

The clock is ticking for Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton to reach a budget deal for a special legislative session, they said after meeting Tuesday, May 26, 2015. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

The clock is ticking for Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton to reach a budget deal for a special legislative session, they said after meeting Tuesday, May 26, 2015. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

It was fitting that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt stood by a grandfather clock Tuesday after they began planning a special legislative session.

The two said they do not want much time to elapse before they revise and pass three vetoed budget bills, as well as some legislation that did not get done during the regular session that adjourned last week.

“It behooves us to get it done as soon as possible,” Dayton said.

Daudt said Minnesotans want the work done quickly.

The first deadline would be difficult to meet: If the budget measures do not pass before Monday, the state will send notices to 10,288 employees warning them that they could be laid off if a budget is not approved before July 1.

“That will send out enormous shockwaves through those individuals,” Dayton said.

Dayton, Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, who met with Dayton separately late Tuesday afternoon, plan a special session well before their ultimate July 1 deadline. If budgets are not done by then, state government would go into a partial shutdown.

Legislative leaders and Dayton did not discuss specifics, but agreed on one thing: The session will be held across the street from the Capitol in the State Office Building, better known as the “SOB.” Because the Capitol building is closed for renovation, Dayton had suggested lawmakers meet in a tent on the Capitol lawn and a luxury hotel offered space for free, but the SOB is a state building and is set up for television and other needs.

While leaders and Dayton have a goal of a one-day session, Daudt said he “will shoot for” committee meetings in advance of the session so the public may be involved. However, he added, he wants to mostly work off of bills that passed in the regular session, so the public already knows about the legislation.

Dayton has scaled back his requirements for a pre-kindergarten program, and seeks more money for overall per-pupil spending than passed in the initial education bill. In exchange for more money for education, he offered to agree to a one-time tax cut that Republicans may want.

As for the $260 million tax cut, a fraction of the $2 billion cut Republicans sought, Daudt said he has not “thought about it completely,” so could not say if he supports it.

Dayton has vetoed three of eight bills funding state government, amounting to almost $17.5 billion of the $42 billion two-year budget, creating the need for a special legislative session to finish the budget.

Only the governor can call a special session, and Dayton said he will do that only after he and all four legislative leaders agree to an agenda.

Dayton has set an eight-item agenda, more than most recent special sessions:

— Rewrite and pass a vetoed education funding bill with money to launch a pre-kindergarten program.

— Rewrite and pass a vetoed spending bill for jobs, economic development and energy, including more broadband expansion funds.

— Rewrite and pass a vetoed agriculture and environment funding bill, keeping money for avian flu recovery and requiring buffer strips around state waters.

— Overturn a just-passed provision that would allow private auditors to check county books instead of the state auditor.

— Pass a public works funding bill.

— Pass the “legacy bill” to fund outdoors and arts projects, and add funding for a White Earth Band project to protect forests, wildlife and habitat on the Wild River Watershed.

— Pass a $260 million one-time income tax cut, an olive branch to Republicans who place lower taxes at the top of their priority list.

— On Tuesday, Dayton added to his list passage of a bill that would allow felons’ vote to be restored after they get out of prison.

Dayton signs four budget bills, three left

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton Friday signed half of the state’s budget bills into law.

On Thursday, he vetoed an education spending bill, leaving three more for him to sign or veto Saturday. He already vetoed one.

The bills are part of a package that would spend nearly $42 billion in the next two years.

The bills he signed are:

— Public safety and courts, which would spend $2.1 billion, up from $2 billion in the current budget.

— Higher education, spending $3 billion, compared to the current $2.9 billion.

— Health and human services, with $12.4 billion, down from the current $12.8 billion.

— Transportation, which would spend $243 million in state tax dollars, up from $213 million in this budget.

Some budget bills with controversial provisions remain: agriculture-environment, jobs-economic development-energy and legislation that funds a variety of state government agencies.

Much of the debate over the four bills Dayton signed was over what was not in the bills.

For instance, the transportation legislation basically continues current work. Democrats and Republicans came into the legislative session wanting to spend billions of dollars in the next decade, but the efforts died when Republicans rejected a new gasoline sales tax that Democrats wanted and Democrats turned down the Republican idea of taking money from other parts of the state budget to fund transportation.

The transportation bill will continue to fund some road and bridge projects and normal operation of the Department of Transportation, but there will not be as much construction as lawmakers wanted.

In higher education, the bill lacks the money to freeze all tuition at state-run colleges and universities. Instead, it will freeze two-year technical college tuitions.

Health and human services funding is enough to keep state subsidized insurance for the poor in the MinnesotaCare program, but those in the program may pay more for their care. The bill also keeps the MNsure health insurance exchange running as is, instead of giving it a new governing structure as many lawmakers wanted.

Also included in the bill is $138 million to increase nursing home funding.

Dayton has said he has issues with some provisions in the remaining three bills, but has not indicated whether he will veto any.

The state government funding measure includes a provision to let counties decide whether to have their books audited by the state auditor or a private firm. Dayton said he will require the Legislature to take that out of the bill when he calls them into special session.

Dayton also said he is looking into environmental and energy provisions he does not like, but said he cannot to veto every bill with isolated provisions he cannot support.

The governor already vetoed an education finance bill because it did not establish pre-kindergarten classes that he wanted.

The education veto alone likely will force a special session, and other vetoed bills could be taken up at the same time. There is general agreement that at least a basic public works funding bill and one funding outdoors and arts programs also should come in a special session.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said that he and Dayton will begin pre-special session negotiations on Tuesday. The session is expected in June, but no dates have been floated.

 

Education layoff notices coming

House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Majority Leader Joyce Peppin tell reporters on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, that they think the 2015 Minnesota Legislature was a success. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Majority Leader Joyce Peppin tell reporters on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, that they think the 2015 Minnesota Legislature was a success. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota’s education funding dispute means more than 800 state education workers will begin receiving layoff notices June 1, with any actual layoffs not starting until July 1.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he regrets the need to upset workers’ lives, but state law requires that workers who could be laid off receive a month’s advance notice, even though if his education funding differences with lawmakers could be settled before July 1.

Democrat Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt of Crown each said on Wednesday that a special legislative session to fix the funding quarrel, and consider non-education bills, almost certainly would not be called before the layoff notices are mailed.

Dayton said he would veto the bill providing education $17 billion over two years. The Legislature-passed bill funding early childhood to high school programs does not contain his priority, funding a half-day of school for 4-year-olds.

Minnesota Management and Budget says that without an education bill when the new fiscal year begins July 1, the Education Department will shut down and many school funds would not be available.

However, the state could go to court as it did during 2011 and 2005 partial government shutdowns and ask a judge to declare that some employees and some funds are critical to the state and that they be allowed to continue even without a bill.

Four hundred people work for the Education Department.

The Dayton administration says also laid off would be 300 workers at the state academies for the deaf and blind and 120 at the Perpich Center for Arts Education without a signed education funding bill.

Also, the administration says that “major cuts” would be needed, including layoffs, at local schools if there is no legislation.

While the governor and legislative leaders have not predicted an extended education funding argument, the differences are deep and five months of a regular legislative session did not bridge them.

Plus, there may be different visions on other items that could come up during a special session. Those differences also could delay a special session start.

Daudt on Wednesday seemed to agree with Dayton on the need to call a special session to deal with education funding. The two also said a public works spending bill and legislation funding outdoors and culture projects should be considered. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, earlier backed considering those two measures.

Others want more on a special session agenda.

House Democratic Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, said other budget bills should be reconsidered: “We have the opportunity to hit the reset button.”

Dayton discounted that idea, but said it could be the end of the week before he knows whether he will veto any spending bill other than education.

Thissen will have more of a say in special session decisions than he did during late regular session negotiations because Dayton plans to require all four legislative leaders — Bakk, Daudt, Thissen and Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie — to sign an agreement outlining the agenda for a special session before he calls it.

The main dispute centers on early education funding. Dayton wants to spend $171 million for schools to be allowed, but not required, to start half-day classes for 4 year olds. Republicans and many Democrats prefer to put any new money to per-pupil funding that could be used for needs other than pre-kindergarten.

Daudt said pre-special session education negotiations should begin where they left off shortly before the Legislature adjourned at midnight Monday: with the two sides $25 million apart and no pre-kindergarten funding. To reach a deal, Dayton dropped his pre-kindergarten program in the last hour of session.

Dayton said he does not know where he and Daudt will begin negotiations, scheduled for Tuesday, but in talking to reporters the last two days he seemed to learn toward going back to his 4-year-old education stand.

Also Wednesday, Daudt demanded Dayton apologize for saying some Republicans “hate schools.” The governor refused, but said he would apologize if they vote for his pre-kindergarten plan.

Daudt and House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, visited southern Minnesota communities Wednesday to promote what they call a successful regular session. Dayton has said he plans to hit the road next week to sell his pre-kindergarten proposal.

After he left a Rochester appearance, a local Democratic representative called for Daudt to resign, the Post-Bulletin of Rochester reported.

Rep. Rep. Tina Liebling accused Daudt of abusing his power and ignoring the democratic process, citing a chaotic ending of the legislative session featuring Democrats shouting at the speaker because they were told to vote without reading a 93-page bill they just received.

“This was a case of the majority, of the speaker who you just heard from, abusing his power, demonstrating an utter disdain for the democratic process and ramming through a bill that had not been read or considered,” Liebling said.

Legislative overtime session may be full

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announces he vetoed the education funding bill Tuesday, May 19, 2015. He said he will review other budget bills this week. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announces he vetoed the education funding bill Tuesday, May 19, 2015. He said he will review other budget bills this week. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Note: A problem with the blog service used by Capitol Chatter prevented some stories from being posted earlier this week. Here is one.

Minnesota lawmakers could debate issues ranging from education to private accountants in a special session this spring or summer.

It has been apparent for days that legislators will be summoned back to pass an education funding bill more to Gov. Mark Dayton’s liking, but on Tuesday the governor said he would demand changes in at least one other bill and would like to see work on a range of other legislation.

Dayton planned to veto an education bill that passed in the final day of the regular session Monday sans his top priority of the year: $171 million to begin classes for 4 year olds in any school district that wishes it. The governor had a veto letter written Tuesday, well before it arrived in his office.

He said that the $17 billion, two-year education budget lawmakers passed is too small, considering a nearly $2 billion expected budget surplus.

Dayton detailed final-day negotiations with Republicans who control the House that failed to reach an education funding deal.

Throughout the day, Dayton said, he kept lowering his request and by day’s end even gave up on voluntary pre-kindergarten for 4 year olds.

“We were trying to spare taxpayers a special session,” he said. “I was going to do what I could to finish the session on time.”

Republicans rejected the offer, he said, which was just $25 million richer than what the GOP proposed.

“I think they have a lot to learn about how to compromise,” Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said.

Dayton said he will remove his last funding offer, but did not know where negotiations will begin for a special session.

Legislative Republicans and most Senate Democrats supported the bill that passed. It would have increased school funding but did not include money for pre-kindergarten.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said that he will examine Dayton’s education veto letter and would like to solve the dispute without a special session. He did not say how a special session could be avoided.

“Over the last five months, we have worked together with Senate Democrats to pass a bipartisan budget investing $400 million in new money into Minnesota classrooms including 1.5 percent and 2 percent on the general education formula and more than $60 million for early learning initiatives,” Daudt said.

One provision in a bill that passed Monday that Dayton said that he will insist be changed before he calls a special session would allow private auditors to examine counties’ finances. The bill passed by the House and Senate would allow counties to either let State Auditor Rebecca Otto do their audits or to hire a private accountant.

Dayton, a former state auditor, said the bill would allow counties to pick auditors who would be most favorable to the counties.

Otto has opposed the bill and sought Dayton’s veto, but on Tuesday Dayton said that instead of vetoing an entire bill he will insist that the just-passed bill be changed to eliminate the option of hiring private auditors.

The governor said he has not had a chance to examine other bills, but said he could consider using the same tactic for any provision he does not like. He also could veto bills, but said he will not know that until he has had a chance to examine them.

Some bills that did not pass both the House and Senate in the rushed final minutes before the Monday night adjournment also could be considered in a special session.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, and Dayton said they would like to see a public works funding bill on the agenda. It could fund Capitol renovation needs that recently arose and recovery costs for last year’s flooding.

A special session also could take up the “legacy bill,” which uses a sales tax increase voters approved in 2008 to fund outdoors and arts projects. The $540 million bill passed the House not long before midnight Monday, but never made to the Senate.

Less likely, but still on Dayton’s list, is trying to increase transportation funding.

House Transportation Chairman Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said that he expects discussions on a transportation funding package to continue over the interim.

Democrats and Republicans agreed this year that billions of dollars in new money is needed for road and bridge construction, but it did not pass this year after Democrats called for it to be funded with a new gasoline tax while Republicans wanted the money to come from other state programs.

Interest groups on Tuesday began lobbying for their causes to be part of a special session. For instance, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities said it would be a good time to revive a dead tax bill that could increase state aid to cities.

An online lottery ban probably will not be part of a special session. Dayton announced Tuesday that he is allowing a bill to become law without his signature that orders the Minnesota State Lottery to end its use of games on the Internet and at fuel pumps.

The Minnesota Capitol press corps surrounds Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook early Tuesday, May 19, 2015, just after the Legislature adjourned for the year. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

The Minnesota Capitol press corps surrounds Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook early Tuesday, May 19, 2015, just after the Legislature adjourned for the year. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Packed boxes sit atop Minnesota representatives' desks early Tuesday, May 19, 2015, as workers prepare to move everything out of the state House chambers before construction crews move in as part of a multi-year Capitol building restoration projects. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Packed boxes sit atop Minnesota representatives’ desks early Tuesday, May 19, 2015, as workers prepare to move everything out of the state House chambers before construction crews move in as part of a multi-year Capitol building restoration projects. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Bob Meyerson, chief Minnesota House sergeant at arms, wheels chairs out of the state House chamber early Tuesday, May 19, 2015, before workers move in as part of a Capitol building renovation project. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Bob Meyerson, chief Minnesota House sergeant at arms, wheels chairs out of the state House chamber early Tuesday, May 19, 2015, before workers move in as part of a Capitol building renovation project. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

House Chief Clerk Pat Murphy leans over to talk to Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing early Tuesday, May 19,2015, after the Minnesota Legislature adjourned for the year. Boxes on represenatives' desks are packed as workers prepare to clear the chamber as part of a Capitol building restoration effort. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

House Chief Clerk Pat Murphy leans over to talk to Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing early Tuesday, May 19,2015, after the Minnesota Legislature adjourned for the year. Boxes on represenatives’ desks are packed as workers prepare to clear the chamber as part of a Capitol building restoration effort. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Shouts, confusion end Minnesota legislative session

Minnesota Reps. Steve Green of Fosston (front) and Dave Hancock of Bemidji look at one of three computers on their desks in the House on Monday, May 18, 2015. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Reps. Steve Green of Fosston (front) and Dave Hancock of Bemidji look at one of three computers on their desks in the House on Monday, May 18, 2015. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

The Minnesota Legislature ended early today amid shouts of “crooks’ and “shameful,” with plenty of confusion mixed in, as lawmakers failed to finish everything they wanted to do in 2015.

A special legislative session is expected after Gov. Mark Dayton’s promised veto of an education funding bill.

Lawmakers passed all the must-do spending bills for a $42 billion, two-year budget, but did not complete a public works funding bill or legislation to fund outdoors and arts projects.

Legislative leaders declared the session, which began Jan. 6, successful, although top Republican and Democratic priorities went undone.

House Republicans, who wanted to cut taxes $2 billion, lost that debate. Senate Democrats failed to get a new gasoline tax to finance transportation work. And Democrat Dayton did not get money for starting pre-kindergarten classes.

The House was in an uproar and the Senate slogging through a last-minute bill as the midnight constitutional adjournment deadline arrived.

“This is no way to make public policy,” Sen. Barb Goodwin, D-Columbia Heights, said at eight minutes before midnight after senators received a 94-page jobs, economic development and energy bill.

Senators passed the measure at two minutes before midnight, and a Senate worker ran it to the House.

The House approved it with many representatives not voting at a minute before midnight as the House speaker avoided eye contact with everyone and called for an immediate vote, refusing to acknowledge anyone wanting to speak.

Democrats shouted protests at House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

A minute after midnight, the Senate passed a public works funding bill, but the House already had adjourned and the measure will need to wait for a special session or next year.

The Senate adjourned at 12:02 a.m. today.

Right after the Legislature adjourned, workers began tearing up the House chamber as part of a three-year Capitol renovation project, making holding a special session difficult. Dayton suggested a session be held in a tent on the Capitol front lawn, an idea most lawmakers rejected.

There was no immediate Dayton comment about the future of the education bill and other budget legislation. But in the past few days he increased his rhetoric about vetoing the education bill and promising a special session.

Generally governors only call special sessions after they have signed agreements with legislative about what will be debated. However, once a governor calls a special session, lawmakers may discuss whatever they want.

Despite the rough ending, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said it was the most bipartisan session he has seen.

“Tonight the Legislature passed the final components of a two-year budget to keep Minnesota moving forward,” Bakk said. “Protecting MinnesotaCare from elimination, $138 million for nursing homes, and important new investments in education were significant accomplishments for the DFL Senate.”

Daudt also talked about being bipartisan.

“Republicans delivered for our students and our aging adults, and enacted dozens of innovative reforms to improve of the lives of Minnesota families,” the speaker said. “We proved we can work together, Republicans and Democrats, to do what’s right for Minnesotans. With broad bipartisan support behind this budget, House Republicans look forward to the governor signing our budget into law.”

Dayton has not given his feelings on most budget bills, although he has expressed discontent with specific provisions. However, Dayton has promised to veto the education bill because legislative leaders rejected his desire to educate 4 year olds.

Dayton wants $171 million added to launch his pre-school provision. Legislative leaders negotiated a bill that adds money to per-pupil funding, but does not include enough for Dayton’s pre-school plan.

“I’m fighting for the kids of Minnesota,” Dayton said Sunday, when he promised to veto any education bill that did not fund his pre-kindergarten plan. “I’m fighting for the parents of Minnesota.”

With less than a half day left in the session, senators voted 51-14 to approve the legislative leaders’ education plan. A mixture of Democrats and Republicans voted against the bill.

The House earlier approved the bill 71-59, with all Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

Dayton blamed House Republicans for the lack of pre-kindergarten funding.

“They are responsible, not me,” Dayton said about a likely special session. “Their attitude is they will pass this bill and walk away.”

A provision that would help greater Minnesota, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer said, would allow schools to get state money to help make repairs.

Stumpf told of one school district that had to make roof repairs over a numbers of years because it could not afford to make all the needed repairs at once, adding that the provision would have helped.

 

Education bill heads to promised veto

An education funding bill Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton promises to veto is headed to his desk.

With less than a half day left until the state Constitution orders lawmakers to finish their work, senators voted 51-14 to approve the bill Dayton says he cannot sign because it does not fund half-day classes for 4 year olds. A mixture of Democrats and Republicans voted against the bill.

The House earlier approved the bill 71-59, with all Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

If Dayton follows through with his promise to veto the bill, and it occurs before midnight, the question will be whether he and legislative leaders who crafted the measure can work out a last-minute compromise. If that does not happen, the governor could call a special legislative session to pass an education bill.

On Sunday, Dayton said in his strongest language yet that he would veto the education bill because it does not fund his top priority: pre-kindergarten education. It falls $171 million short.

Dayton blamed House Republicans on the lack of pre-kindergarten funding.

“They are responsible, not me,” Dayton said as he blamed the GOP for a special session. “Their attitude is they will pass this bill and walk away.”

Dayton’s fellow Democrats in the Senate said lots of nice things about the bill Dayton promises to veto.

One provision that will help greater Minnesota, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer said, “is going to mean an awful lot.” It would allow schools to get state money to help make repairs.

Stumpf told of one school district that had to make roof repairs over a numbers of years because it could not afford to make all the needed repairs, adding that the provision would have helped.

Otherwise, the Legislature was well on its way to passing a $41 billion, two-year budget. Much of the spending was negotiated by Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook.

However, after the three failed to reach a deal on education funding, Daudt and Bakk met privately for two hours Friday afternoon and came up with their own plan.

While Dayton Sunday expressed displeasure with provisions in the other seven spending bills, he only issued a veto threat on education.

The House education vote just before 5:30 a.m.

The bill would spend $17 billion in the two years beginning July 1.

“Legislative leaders crafted a student-focused, bipartisan education bill that works to provide Minnesota students with a world-class education,” House Education Finance Chairwoman Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, said. “From increasing E (early childhood)-12 funding by a substantial $400 million to prioritizing our youngest learners with millions more for pre-k scholarships and school readiness aid, this legislation increases academic opportunities for all students and will help close the achievement gap.”

Democrats saw the bill differently.

“Just like this entire session, the Republican education bill is a huge waste of an opportunity for Minnesota’s future,” House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, said. “With a $2 billion surplus, we should seize this opportunity to invest in our youngest learners and make serious progress to reduce our state’s achievement gap.”

Much of the new money goes to increasing per-pupil aid to all public schools. It also would spend $60 million for early-childhood education and adds money to help greater Minnesota schools improve and repair facilities.

House and Senate members overnight also passed a $12 billion measure funding health programs. It retained the existing MNsure health insurance exchange structure, which both parties wanted to change. It also maintained the MinnesotaCare state-subsidized insurance program for the poor, which Republicans wanted to eliminate.

 

Special session, failures face Minnesota lawmakers

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Sunday, May 17, 2015, that he absolutely will veto the education funding bill lawmakers appear ready to send to him. That likely would lead to a special legislative session. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Sunday, May 17, 2015, that he absolutely will veto the education funding bill lawmakers appear ready to send to him. That likely would lead to a special legislative session. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

A special session over education funding and the failure of the three main legislative forces’ priorities face Minnesota lawmakers when midnight arrives Monday.

Lawmakers made good progress on most of the eight major spending bills Sunday as they worked to write a $41.5 billion budget for the two years beginning July 1. They face a Monday midnight constitutional deadline to adjourn, and legislative leaders have agreed on pretty much everything, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton repeated demands, more forcibly than ever, that they give him a half-day education program for 4-year-olds.

Dayton wants $171 million to allow 40,000 4 year olds go to school. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said Dayton will not get his way.

“Shame on them,” Dayton said of House Republicans who would not back his plan.

Neither the Republican-controlled House nor the Democratic-controlled Senate passed an education funding bill that included the pre-kindergarten funding. Bakk said he and other Democrats support the Dayton provision, but Republicans do not, so it needs to wait if an education bill is to pass.

“The bill is closed and that’s the bill we intend to send to the governor,” Bakk said late Sunday.

House lawmakers were behind closed doors Sunday night discussing the bill, and it was possible it could come up for a vote later in the night or early Monday.

Republicans were adamant against the provision.

“It’s the governor’s responsibility to build a groundswell of support for his issues in the Legislature,” Daudt said. “And the fact that this particular issue didn’t make it into the conference committee, it didn’t pass the House or the Senate, makes it a difficult position for him to maintain.”

Daudt, who met with Dayton on the issue late Sunday afternoon, added: “I certainly ask the governor to reconsider and not veto our bipartisan education bill that puts more dollars on the per pupil formula than his own budget, makes significant investments in early education and helps address teacher shortage issues in greater Minnesota.”

Bakk also met with Dayton, but the governor swayed neither leader.

While Dayton’s priority pre-kindergarten program appeared about to sink, Senate Democrats also have failed to get a transportation program funding by a new gasoline tax and House Republicans were unsuccessful in providing $2 billion in tax breaks.

The tax cuts and transportation funding could pass next year, but Dayton said he does not want to wait until 2016 for an education funding boost.

Work already done on the transportation and tax proposals still will be on the books when legislators return March 8 for their 2016 session.

Daudt and Bakk worked out the education funding plan Friday afternoon in a private session at the governor’s residence. After the governor looked it over, he rejected the plan and each day has spoken more vigorously against it.

If education funding is not approved by the midnight deadline, Dayton would need to call a special session if one was to pass.

The Dayton administration says that while some funding could continue to reach schools if no education bill passes, much would not. And, the administration says, the 400-employee state Education Department would close.

However, House Education Policy Chairwoman Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, said that a 2011 state government shutdown set a precedence that state check-writers and others should continue to work even without a budget appropriation. She said education would continue as is without a bill.

Special sessions have been fairly common, but this year it would be difficult. Hours after the Legislature adjourns, construction workers are due to tear up House and Senate chambers as part of a three-year, $300 million Capitol building renovation.

Dayton on Saturday said that a special session could cost the state millions of dollars, but Sunday he said — and his aides said he was serious — that he would be in favor of holding a special session in a tent on the Capitol lawn.

“They are responsible, not me,” Dayton said as he blamed the GOP for a special session. “Their attitude is they will pass this bill and walk away.”

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said he has heard from a couple of people in his district who favor the pre-kindergarten plan. Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said he also has not heard from many in support.

Both said they, and many school leaders, would prefer to add money to the per-pupil state payments to schools instead of sending 4-year-olds to class.

Assistant House Minority Leader Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth, said he thought that about 80 percent of House Democrats favor the Dayton proposal.

The Legislature’s preschool-to-12th-grade school funding bill puts school spending at $17 billion over the next two years, about $400 million more than the current budget.

Legislators’ plans put most of the new money, roughly $287 million, into the per pupil funding formula for school operations. Districts would receive a 1.5 percent and 2 percent increase over the next two years, $87 per student in the first year and $110 per student in the second.

It also includes $32 million to help rural districts maintain school facilities. Now, just 25 mostly metro districts can raise property taxes for maintenance without voter backing.

Preschool does get $60 million in new money, but it is evenly split between public schools favored by DFLers and scholarships favored by Republicans.

The measure does not include controversial policy provisions proposed by Republicans, including changes to teacher seniority rules for layoffs and requiring transgender students to use bathrooms based on their sex at birth.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press, a Forum News Service media partner, contributed to this story.

 

Updated: Dayton, leaders clash over school funding

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton tells reporters Saturday, May 16, 2015, that he will veto an education fudning bill because it does not spend enough money. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton tells reporters Saturday, May 16, 2015, that he will veto an education fudning bill because it does not spend enough money. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota legislative leaders and the governor are on a collision course over education funding as time runs out for the 2015 legislative session.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton promises to veto education spending legislation that is not rich enough to fund universal pre-kindergarten programs. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said they don’t want to waiver from a budget deal they drew up that falls short of Dayton’s wishes.

The governor wants enough money to fund half-day pre-kindergarten programs statewide, as well as increasing per-pupil spending in schools. While Bakk and Daudt are leaving details up to education conference committee negotiators, Dayton said Saturday that $150 million more than is in the Bakk-Daudt plan is needed to fund his projects and avoid a veto.

A veto probably would force a special legislative session.

The education money in dispute pales in comparison to the overall budget, which under the Bakk-Daudt plan would spend $41.5 billion in the two years beginning July 1. Current spending is expected to be $39.3 billion in the two years ending June 30.

Negotiations among Dayton, Daudt and Bakk throughout the past week did not reach an overall budget agreement. While meeting with Dayton at his official home, Bakk and Daudt retired to a closed-door meeting Friday afternoon, met two hours and left after giving Dayton their budget plan. After looking it over, Dayton had several criticisms, but nothing rising to a veto threat like what he considers inadequate education funding.

Legislators have until midnight Monday to finish their session.

If they cannot finish on time, holding a special session will be difficult because on Tuesday construction workers begin expanding their Capitol renovation work by ripping up the House and Senate chambers. Dayton said that if a special session is needed, it could cost millions of dollars.

In the rush to finish on time, House and Senate negotiators pushed to finish writing their eight spending bills so the full House and Senate can vote on them before adjournment. Lawmakers were expected to work Sunday afternoon and night and all day Monday.

Saturday’s focus was on education funding for early childhood through high school.

Democrat Dayton met with reporters, but first greeted a Duluth brother and sister, ages 8 and 11.

“The situation is all about their future,” Dayton said, nodding to Stella and Charley Schutz, whose grandmother works for the House Public Information Office.

More than 50 House Democrats signed a letter supporting the Dayton spending level.

“In a time of surplus, we should not be shortchanging our kids,” the Democrats wrote to Dayton. “Democrats in the Minnesota House will stand with you and with families across our state as these budget negotiations move forward.”

Bakk said that he and Daudt are firm on passing their own plan, not increasing spending to please Dayton. “We are out of time here.”

The senator warned that Dayton’s veto threat “is very risky.” He said if the bill is vetoed, Republicans could return to a special session with an even lower spending target. “He may get a smaller education bill if he goes into special session.”

The Dayton administration disputed Bakk’s claim that lack of an education bill would allow schools to keep their funding. He said a veto would only result in the state Education Department closing.

While some funding would continue, the administration released a memorandum saying that not only would the 400-worker state department close without an education bill, but considerable school funding also would dry up. Teachers also could lose jobs, the memo said.

Dayton, leaders clash over school funding

Stella Schutz, 11, and Charley Schutz, 8, pose with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith Saturday, May 16, 2015, before the governor told reporters he was ready to veto an education funding bill that would help youths like the two from Duluth, Minn. They are the grandchildren of Lee Ann Schutz of the House Public Information Office. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Stella Schutz, 11, and Charley Schutz, 8, pose with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith Saturday, May 16, 2015, before the governor told reporters he was ready to veto an education funding bill that would help youths like the two from Duluth, Minn. They are the grandchildren of Lee Ann Schutz of the House Public Information Office. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

051715 n mcb xgrsession chart

Minnesota legislative leaders and the governor are on a collision course over education funding as time runs out for the 2015 legislative session.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton promises to veto education spending legislation that is not rich enough to fund universal pre-kindergarten programs. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said they don’t want to waiver from a budget deal they drew up that falls short of Dayton’s wishes.

The governor wants enough money to fund half-day pre-kindergarten programs statewide, as well as increasing per-pupil spending in schools. While Bakk and Daudt are leaving details up to education conference committee negotiators, Dayton said Saturday that $150 million more than is in the Bakk-Daudt plan is needed to fund his projects and avoid a veto.

A veto probably would force a special legislative session.

The education money in dispute pales in comparison to the overall budget, which under the Bakk-Daudt plan would spend $41.5 billion in the two years beginning July 1. Current spending is expected to be $39.3 billion in the two years ending June 30.

Negotiations among Dayton, Daudt and Bakk throughout the past week did not reach an overall budget agreement. While meeting with Dayton at his official home, Bakk and Daudt retired to a closed-door meeting Friday afternoon, met two hours and left after giving Dayton their budget plan. After looking it over, Dayton had several criticisms, but nothing rising to a veto threat like what he considers inadequate education funding.

Legislators have until midnight Monday to finish their session.

If they cannot finish on time, holding a special session will be difficult because on Tuesday construction workers begin expanding their Capitol renovation work by ripping up the House and Senate chambers. Dayton said that if a special session is needed, it could cost millions of dollars.

In the rush to finish on time, House and Senate negotiators pushed to finish writing their eight spending bills so the full House and Senate can vote on them before adjournment. Lawmakers were expected to work Sunday afternoon and night and all day Monday.

Saturday’s focus was on education funding for early childhood through high school.

Democrat Dayton met with reporters, but first greeted a Duluth brother and sister, ages 8 and 11.

“The situation is all about their future,” Dayton said, nodding to Stella and Charley Schutz, whose grandmother works for the House Public Information Office.

More than 50 House Democrats signed a letter supporting the Dayton spending level.

“In a time of surplus, we should not be shortchanging our kids,” the Democrats wrote to Dayton. “Democrats in the Minnesota House will stand with you and with families across our state as these budget negotiations move forward.”

Bakk said that he and Daudt are firm on passing their own plan, not increasing spending to please Dayton. “We are out of time here.”

The senator warned that Dayton’s veto threat “is very risky.” He said if the bill is vetoed, Republicans could return to a special session with an even lower spending target. “He may get a smaller education bill if he goes into special session.”

The Dayton administration disputed Bakk’s claim that lack of an education bill would allow schools to keep their funding. He said a veto would only result in the state Education Department closing.

While some funding would continue, the administration released a memorandum saying that not only would the 400-worker state department close without an education bill, but considerable school funding also would dry up. Teachers also could lose jobs, the memo said.

 

Update: Dayton wants education money added to legislative budget deal

Minneota House Speaker Kurt Daudt of Crown, with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook, announces Friday night, May 15, 2015, the two legislative leaders reached a deal on state spending for the next two years. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minneota House Speaker Kurt Daudt of Crown, with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook, announces Friday night, May 15, 2015, the two legislative leaders reached a deal on state spending for the next two years. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota legislative leaders announced a budget agreement Friday night, after five days of negotiating with Gov. Mark Dayton, but the governor said he wants more education funding.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, emerged from the governor’s residence to tell reporters they had an overall budget agreement, but would not release specifics until early Saturday. They said that with the agreement, and fast work, they could meet their constitutional deadline to adjourn for the year.

“We’re going home before midnight Monday,” Bakk promised.

Added Daudt: “We feel like we are there.”

However, after looking over the “deal” Bakk and Daudt gave him, Democrat Dayton delivered a counter offer. Dayton wants more money in education.

He proposes adding $150 million to education beyond what the Daudt-Bakk plan contains, including funding half-day universal pre-kindergarten. He also wants to increase the per-pupil school funding formula 1.5 percent a year.

Legislative leaders said there was not enough money for universal kindergarten. Bakk told reporters that he expects lawmakers to pass the education funding bill as he and Daudt propose.

Dayton told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he was not part of the agreement Bakk and Daudt announced.

“We proceeded, all of us apace, in that room, House, Senate and myself with our staffs working it out until about 4 o’clock this afternoon, and then they said they wanted to go in and just have the legislators discuss it, which I took to mean that they were going to talk about some of the logistical considerations,” Dayton said Friday night. “All of a sudden … two hours later, they have this deal the two of them had agreed to… without my participation. I haven’t had a chance to pursue with them why they felt the need to do that.”

Dayton said that what he sees as lack of education funding is the only thing he knows about that “could stand in the way of the overall agreement.”

The governor said he would hold off on complete agreement on any of the budget plan until he sees budget spreadsheets.

“The devil’s in the details, but we’ll see how it proceeds,” he said.

Bakk had a one-word answer to what could derail the agreement: “math.” If spreadsheets House and Senate staff draw up match what was negotiated, Bakk and Daudt said they have a deal.

Negotiations have gone on for days to write a $40 billion-plus, two-year budget.

Daudt and Bakk said the likelihood was slim of passing bills funding more transportation projects or cutting taxes. Bakk said negotiators focused on eight must-pass spending bills, but transportation and taxes are not mandatory this year.

“We are still talking about that,” Daudt said about tax and transportation issues. “If we don’t get to those issues this year, there will be significant money on the bottom line” and lawmakers may consider them next year.

The leaders said they do not know how much the state would spend under their agreement.

While details were scarce, here are a few items Daudt and Bakk mentioned:

— State-run colleges and universities probably will not get enough money to freeze tuitions for the next two years.

— MinnesotaCare, which Republicans wanted to fold to save money, will survive as a state-subsidized insurance program for the poor, and a working group will study its future.

— Nursing homes will get more funds.

— No public works financing legislation, known as the bonding bill, is likely other than a small one funding flood recovery.

— Discussions continue on a Dayton proposal to require vegetative buffers around all of the state water as a way to reduce water pollution.

Bakk and Daudt said that while they think their agreement will pass, all lawmakers might not be happy.

“Everyone walks away from the table grumbling a little bit,” Bakk said.

With a Monday adjournment deadline, lawmakers may be forced to work around-the-clock until then.

House-Senate conference committees were expected to begin negotiating final spending bills late Friday. In general, Bakk and Daudt are giving the committees general spending targets, with committee members left with the job of making specific decisions.

Even as legislative leaders struggled to end the current legislative session, they set March 8 as the beginning of next year’s session.

Also Friday, senators approved, and sent to the governor, a bill allowing Minnesota drivers to use smartphones as proof of vehicle insurance.

The governor signed a bill to create a working group to develop a system to provide the public information about missing elderly people with dementia.

 

Dayton wants education money added to legislative budget deal

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook smiles as House Speaker Kurt Daudt of Crown answers a reporter's question Friday night, May 15, 2015, as they announce they reached a budget deal. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook smiles as House Speaker Kurt Daudt of Crown answers a reporter’s question Friday night, May 15, 2015, as they announce they reached a budget deal. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Minnesota legislative leaders announced a budget agreement Friday night, after five days of negotiating with Gov. Mark Dayton, but the governor said he wants more education funding.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, emerged from the governor’s residence to tell reporters they had an overall budget agreement, but would not release specifics until early Saturday. They said that with the agreement, and fast work, they could meet their constitutional deadline to adjourn for the year.

“We’re going home before midnight Monday,” Bakk promised.

Added Daudt: “We feel like we are there.”

However, after looking over the “deal” Bakk and Daudt gave him, Democrat Dayton delivered what his spokesman called a counter offer. Dayton wants more money in education, Dayton spokesman Matt Swanson said.

He proposes adding $150 million to education beyond what the Daudt-Bakk plan contains, including funding half-day universal pre-kindergarten. He also wants to increase the per-pupil school funding formula 1.5 percent a year.

Bakk told reporters that he expects lawmakers to pass the education funding bill as he and Daudt propose.

Dayton’s staff said the governor indicated he would accept “nothing less” than his proposal, but stopped short of saying he would veto a bill smaller than he wants.

Legislative leaders had said there was not enough money for universal kindergarten.

Dayton’s office Friday night did not comment on other aspects of the legislative budget plan.

The governor was not with legislative leaders when they addressed the media even though he was one of the three main negotiators and they were standing outside of his official home.

Bakk had a one-word answer to what could derail the agreement: “math.” If spreadsheets House and Senate staff draw up match what was negotiated, Bakk and Daudt said they have a deal.

Neither legislative leader hinted that Dayton would oppose their plan.

Negotiations have gone on for days to write a $40 billion-plus, two-year budget.

Daudt and Bakk said the likelihood was slim of passing bills funding more transportation projects or cutting taxes. Bakk said negotiators focused on eight must-pass spending bills, but transportation and taxes are not mandatory this year.

“We are still talking about that,” Daudt said about tax and transportation issues. “If we don’t get to those issues this year, there will be significant money on the bottom line” and lawmakers may consider them next year.

The leaders said they do not know how much the state would spend under their agreement.

While details were scarce, here are a few items Daudt and Bakk mentioned:

— State-run colleges and universities probably will not get enough money to freeze tuitions for the next two years.

— MinnesotaCare, which Republicans wanted to fold to save money, will survive as a state-subsidized insurance program for the poor, and a working group will study its future.

— Nursing homes will get more funds.

— No public works financing legislation, known as the bonding bill, is likely other than a small one funding flood recovery.

— Discussions continue on a Dayton proposal to require vegetative buffers around all of the state water as a way to reduce water pollution.

Bakk and Daudt said that while they think their agreement will pass, all lawmakers might not be happy.

“Everyone walks away from the table grumbling a little bit,” Bakk said.

With a Monday adjournment deadline, lawmakers may be forced to work around-the-clock until then.

House-Senate conference committees were expected to begin negotiating final spending bills late Friday. In general, Bakk and Daudt are giving the committees general spending targets, with committee members left with the job of making specific decisions.

Even as legislative leaders struggled to end the current legislative session, they set March 8 as the beginning of next year’s session.

Also Friday, senators approved, and sent to the governor, a bill allowing Minnesota drivers to use smartphones as proof of vehicle insurance.

The governor signed a bill to create a working group to develop a system to provide the public information about missing elderly people with dementia.

 

Hints of progress emerge in budget talks

Reporters greet Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk Thursday morning, May 14, 2015, as he walks through the front gate of the governor's residence en route to budget talks. (Forum News Service photo by Robb Jeffries)

Reporters greet Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk Thursday morning, May 14, 2015, as he walks through the front gate of the governor’s residence en route to budget talks. (Forum News Service photo by Robb Jeffries)

This is the day many Capitol insiders say a state budget deal must be cut if the 2015 legislative session is to end smoothly Monday, and there were hints progress is being made.

Negotiators working on a $40 billion-plus, two-year budget were not telling Minnesotans how things were going. There were indications that high-level negotiators were reaching agreements on some spending targets.

“We have our target and we are ready to go,” Senate Judiciary Budget Chairman Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, said this morning.

Latz said as soon as the Senate adjourned at midday he would prepare an offer to his House counterparts about how to spend $2.1 billion, the target he has received from Senate leaders.

“We are close to getting a target,” Senate Higher Education Chairwoman Terri Bonoff, D-Minnetonka, said.

Sen. Tom Saxhaug, D-Grand Rapids, said his committee in charge of funding a variety of state government programs expected targets later today or early Friday.

However, other Senate chairmen did not sound as optimistic. For instance, Sen. Tony Lourey, D-Kerrick, said the health and human services conference committee has met several times, but he made no mention that he was about to receive a spending target.

When Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, entered the governor’s residence for negotiations this morning, he greeted waiting reporters with: “Hello, everybody,” refusing to give even a hint about how close officials are to a deal. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, was no more helpful with his “good morning.”

Bakk, Daudt and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton are key negotiators working on the budget as time runs out. They were accompanied by a few others, and throughout talks this week they invite in commissioners and committee chairmen as needed when specific issues arise.

Late Wednesday, Daudt told some reporters that transportation and tax issues have not been discussed lately, with a priority being placed on other spending issues. Bakk has said the Legislature does not need to pass transportation and tax bills, although all parties say that increasing transportation funding is a priority.

Robb Jeffries contributed to this story.