House and Senate Republicans are pushing ahead with a series of budget bills despite clear signals from Gov. Mark Dayton that he will reject many of the measures in their current form.
Dayton wants to see budget bills that are clean and comprehensive. In a letter to Republican House and Senate leaders this week, the governor said he wouldn't even start negotiating until they've agreed on one complete plan for a balanced budget. Dayton also said policy issues should be kept separate from budget bills, warning that he will not accept "extraneous" policy provisions in the any finance bills.
Some of the bills debated in both chambers Tuesday are loaded with such potential veto triggers.
"I've indicated that if there are policy matters put into budget bills that I've not had a chance to work through and I don't support, that I'll reserve the right not to support that bill on that basis," he said. "If that were to happen near the end of session so that it had to go back then and be reconsidered by the Legislature, those delays would be the Legislature's responsibility."
Several examples of extraneous policies are contained in a K-12 education bill, which was up for debate in the House. The bill includes a slight increase in per-pupil funding, but it takes away the integration aid that now goes to urban school districts. It also replaces teacher seniority with a new evaluation system based on student performance.
State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is unapologetic about the policy content in his bill. Garofalo, chairman of the House Education Finance Committee, aims to make big changes in the public education system, and after working with Dayton earlier this session on an alternative teaching license bill, is convinced more agreements are possible.
"Waiting until the last week and cramming everything into one bill and jamming everything through the process, it's not a good way to get things done on a bipartisan basis," Garofolo said. "By getting these items out there early, not only can we have a thoughtful, reasonable conversation with the Dayton administration. In addition to that, we can get the public involved and help explain this is why it is we're trying to do this."
DFLers are convinced the K-12 bill is headed toward a certain veto. State Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, described the GOP proposal as "ugly and mean spirited."
"This is a Republican ideologue dream bill with every extreme policy, from vouchers to getting rid of all teacher bargaining rights, all tenure, no right to strike, grading teachers and schools," Greiling said. "Just like No Child Left Behind, except worse."
Another potential policy hurdle was on display in the Senate, where legislators debated a higher education bill that includes a ban on human cloning. The anti-abortion group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life pushed for the policy. State Sen. Mike Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, said the ban is a moral issue.
"At some point, and specifically at the point that my colleagues talk about that you can harvest something for use, those cells have certainly become a life of whatever you created it out of to begin with," he said. "And you have to end that life in order to harvest anything usable."
But state Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, argued the ban is too vaguely worded and could harm other types of scientific work.
"What I'd like to protect is therapeutic stem cell research, not reproductive stem cell research," Latz said. "Reproductive stem cell research I think is what most people think of in human cloning."
Republican leaders are trying to pass all their budget bills by the end of the week to meet an unusually early self-imposed deadline. They say the bills would erase a projected $5 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. Dayton's budget proposal relies on an income tax increase on the state's top earners.