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.