Education bill: One vote down, one left, one veto remaining
By Don Davis Forum News Service ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House passed an education funding bill along party lines early today, with the Senate planning to take it up before noon, potentially setting up a faceoff between legislative leaders and Gov.
By Don Davis
Forum News Service
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House passed an education funding bill along party lines early today, with the Senate planning to take it up before noon, potentially setting up a faceoff between legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton.
The question in the halls of the Capitol is whether legislative leaders and Dayton can fashion a compromise education bill before tonight's constitutionally mandated adjournment date. If that fails and Dayton follows through with his veto threat, negotiations would have to restart and the Democratic governor at some point most likely would call a special legislative session to settle the education issue.
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.
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 on 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. was along party lines, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.
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.