Dayton objects to lawmakers’ budget deal

Gov. Mark Dayton is threatening to scuttle a deal reached by House and Senate leaders to end the Legislative session.

Dayton says he’ll veto an education bill if the Legislature doesn’t add more money to fund one of his top priorities, half day pre-kindergarten for four-year olds.

After five days of round the clock budget talks at the governor’s residence, DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt emerged Friday evening to announce that they were on the cusp of a budget deal.

Bakk said lawmakers can pass the entire budget before Monday's midnight deadline to adjourn the session.

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He called it a good agreement.

“Sometimes the best negotiations are when everyone walks away from the table grumbling a little bit," Bakk said. "No one walks away angry, but everybody is grumbling a little bit saying ‘gee I didn’t get everything what I wanted.' I think that’s probably where this is going to conclude.”

The budget spends $41.5 billion over the next two years. It adds $400 million to early childhood education and K-12 schools.

The plan also preserves MinnesotaCare, a state subsidized health insurance program for the working poor that House Republicans had proposed eliminating.

Some items didn't make it into the leaders' deal.

They scrapped a Republican plan to cut taxes by $2 billion and a plan to spend billions over the next 10 years on transportation.

Because those two items weren't funded, House Speaker Kurt Daudt says $1.3 billion will be available for the Legislature to consider next year.

“If we don’t get to those issues this year, there will be a significant amount of money left on the bottom line that we can address in the next session,” he said.

As Bakk and Daudt made their announcement on the front lawn of the governor’s residence, Mark Dayton was noticeably absent. He voiced his objections a few hours later.

“I made it very clear to them that I would veto the bill which would mean the necessity of a special session, which we all have stressed and mean sincerely that we want to avoid,” Dayton said.

The governor said he wants the Legislature to spend an additional $150 million on early education and schools. He's demanding the funding include a 1.5 percent annual increase in per-pupil spending and funding for half day pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds.

Dayton said the Legislature can pay for his education initiatives with the money that's not devoted to tax cuts and transportation.

He said he was caught off guard by the budget deal because Daudt and Bakk asked to meet privately. He said they presented their plan to him as a take it or leave it proposition- something the legislative leaders didn’t deny.

Bakk said the negotiations were going so slowly that he and Daudt were worried they would be forced into a special session. When asked about Dayton’s veto threat, Bakk said he intends to send the governor the education bill.

“I’d be disappointed if he decided to veto $400 million in new funding for E-12," Bakk said. "That’s a lot of money.”

House and Senate budget chairs will spend the next three days negotiating details of each budget item.

Republican House Transportation Committee Chair Tim Kelly of Red Wing said he’s disappointed no agreement was reached on a transportation bill. He said the differences over whether to raise the gas tax were too stark.

“I hate to see five months of five months of work on a lot of people’s parts just stymied there, but I guess we’ll have to see what the final agreement is,”he said.

The Legislature will have to work overtime this weekend to agree on the details if the session is to end on time. And it looks like it will be up to Dayton to decide if that work will be in vain.

Here are the overall numbers in the plan agreed to by Bakk and Daudt: