Dayton, leaders digging in on education

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk warned that a veto of the education funding bill could be risky. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Gov. Mark Dayton stood firm Saturday on his threat to veto an education funding bill that he contends is inadequate.

Dayton held a news conference to criticize the budget agreement reached Friday night by Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. The agreement includes a $400 million increase for schools.

The governor is insisting on an additional $155 $150 million, including partial funding of his universal preschool proposal.

“I’ll say it again and I’ll say it again and I’ll say it again. I’m going to veto $400 million, because it’s wrong for the people of Minnesota, for the parents of Minnesota and the school children of Minnesota,” Dayton said.

Dayton said the need for any special session would be because of legislative leaders, not him.

Daudt said he would be happy to talk to the governor about his concerns. But he said the spending target for education has been set.

“We’re going to pass a bill out of the House and the Senate that’s going to go to the governor’s desk at a spending level of $400 million over base for K-12 education,” Daudt said. What he decides to do with it after that I guess is up to him.”

Bakk said he supports the governor’s position on education funding, but House Republicans don’t. Bakk said a veto would be risky and could result in even less money for schools.

“These Republicans do not want to spend money on state government, and that includes schools,” Bakk said. “I frankly think the governor could be getting set up by them, that he may get a smaller education bill if he goes into a special session.”

Bakk said he expects the House and Senate to pass their agreed-to budget bills by the Monday midnight deadline for adjournment.

Conference committees are working to complete those bills.

Bakk and Daudt said that they will need minority party support in both bodies to pass all the bills on time. House Minority leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he doesn’t think there will be many votes from his caucus for the bills, especial the education bill.

“We’re not going to throw procedural roadblocks up to stop progress, but we certainly aren’t going to support bills we don’t think reflect what’s best for Minnesota.”

Most of the work is centered on the two largest spending areas: education and health and human services. The House and Senate target for health and human services is a $328 million reduction in projected spending.

Republican Rep. Matt Dean, the chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, said they could have done more.

“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to achieve some of the reforms and savings that I think we can and should do down the road,” Dean said.

The leaders agreement does not include eliminating MinnesotaCare, the state subsidized health insurance program for the working poor. House Republicans had v0ted to abolish the program and move about 90,000 people from MinnesotaCare into MNSure, the state’s online heath insurance exchange.

The budget deal does include another House priority, however. It provides $138 million in new spending for nursing homes.