The Republican-controlled Minnesota House and the DFL-controlled Senate steamed ahead with a $41.5 billion budget on Monday, despite a looming iceberg in the form of a veto threat from Gov. Mark Dayton.
Dayton said he intends to veto the bill that funds early education and schools because it is not sufficiently funded. Dayton said he wants an additional $150 million to fund half-day, universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds.
Despite that threat, weary state lawmakers will send the governor the bill before a midnight deadline for the Legislature to adjourn. Even if they get all their work done, a veto by the governor would force them into a special session.
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State Sen. Alice Johnson, DFL-Blaine, said she sympathizes with Dayton's position. But Johnson said Democrats and Republicans couldn't agree on spending more money.
"It just wasn't doable right now in the conditions that we're working in," she said. "Hopefully we can address that at some point in the future."
Dayton has said he has objections to provisions in some of other budget bills. But he hasn't said if he will veto any of them.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt hopes Dayton changes his mind and accepts the entire budget, which leaves about half of the state's $2 billion budget surplus unspent.
"We hope that the governor won't veto any of our bills," said Daudt, R-Crown. "I understand that the K-12 bill isn't exactly what he wants, but we're hoping that it will earn his signature. We think it's a good bill. We think it goes a long way to put money into the classroom."
Besides Dayton's threat of a veto, many legislators are disappointed in the final bills agreed on by the two parties. Despite a major push all year to fund a multi-year transportation plan, for example, the House and Senate opted to pass a bill that maintains the status quo instead of funding needed improvements.
Democrats and Republicans disagreed over whether to raise the tax on gasoline or use existing sales taxes and borrowing to pay for road and bridge construction.
Among the lawmakers who said they wished they could have done more was state Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. He wanted a tax increase to finance transportation needs.
"Needless to say, I won't dwell too much on the subject of how disappointed I am about this lost opportunity to make a major investment, a generational advance in our economy and quality of life," Dibble said.
House Republicans also failed in their goal to use the entire budget surplus to cut taxes. Legislative leaders scrapped the plan after they couldn't agree.
Because the two parties could not agree on money or policy, House and Senate negotiators also were stitching together a pared-down energy and economic development bill, Daudt said.
However, legislators did cut some deals with Dayton, such as a measure that requires farmers to plant grass strips of land between crops and bodies of water. Dayton had called for a buffer along all lakes, streams and ditches in the state to protect lakes and rivers from agricultural runoff.
State Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said Dayton and agriculture groups agree on the compromise.
"It's not going to fix everything. We won't suddenly have crystal clear water in every drainage ditch in the state," Torkelson said. "But it will help water quality and it will help to protect the banks of our rivers and the integrity of our drainage system."
But several environmental groups complain that the bill has other flaws and are urging Dayton to veto it.
In the House, Democrats are calling the budget a failure. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said lawmakers who started with a big budget surplus are leaving with a plan that shortchanges taxpayers, college students, children and parents.
"It really is a huge missed opportunity," said Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. "I don't know what the Legislature points to when they go home and say, 'This is what we accomplished this session.'"
Daudt said the remaining budget surplus will give Republicans another chance to cut taxes next year. But with the governor's veto, lawmakers will be back before next year for a special session, even though construction in the State Capitol building leaves it unclear where they'll actually meet.