Before special session, a few details remain

The day after reaching agreement on education funding, GOP legislative leaders and representatives of Gov. Mark Dayton were deep into the detail questions they'll have to resolve before the governor will call a special session.

Gov. Dayton and Speaker Daudt
Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt.
MPR News file

Both Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Monday that a potential deal was imminent. But on Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said there was still work to do.

"Nothing is actually buttoned up until you actually have the button in the buttonhole," she said, "and that's what we're working to do."

Dayton agreed Monday to a House Republican request to increase spending for early childhood education and K-12 schools by $525 million. Dayton dropped his bid for universal pre-K and House Republicans dropped their plan to change teacher tenure.

The details of where the new money will go are still being hashed out, but the per-pupil funding formula will increase by 2 percent in each of the next two years. More money will also be available to help disadvantaged children attend preschool.

The two sides are negotiating items in two other budget bills Dayton vetoed, one that funds environment and farm programs and another that contains money for economic development. Daudt said the new versions of those bills won't be much different from the ones Dayton initially rejected.

Environmental groups urged Dayton to veto the environment bill because it abolished the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's citizens' board and included other measures dealing with wastewater treatment and clean water. Dayton had sought 50-foot buffers of uncultivated land along all bodies of water, but the latest version would impose more modest requirements.

"If you look at the environment bill, it will have the same buffer language," Daudt said. "It will have the repeal of the citizen's board. The other changes are fairly minimal. For the most part the bills are going to look similar."

The new version also keeps an increase in rural broadband funding at the $10 million level set in the original bill. Daudt said the new version will eliminate an earmark giving broadband money to Annandale.

One item that didn't pass during the regular session but will be considered during a special session is a public works bonding bill. House Republicans and the DFL Senate majority have agreed to borrow $100 million for what they consider emergency construction projects.

House Republicans need nine DFL votes to get the needed supermajority to pass a bonding bill, but DFL Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul said the Republicans may be wasting their time unless they put together a larger bill. "I would almost say don't bother," she said.

Hausman said a bigger bill would make it easier to attract DFL votes. She said financing for the Hwy. 53 rerouting project on the Iron Range is likely to be included in a bonding bill. It will also likely include $34 million to finish the Capitol renovation.

Construction crews have closed the Capitol to overhaul the House and Senate chambers. That has forced legislative staff to set up a makeshift set of chambers across the street in the State Office Building.

Legislative leaders have agreed that two committee rooms will serve as the chambers. Minnesota House Sergeant at Arms Bob Meyerson said the temporary chambers are historic.

"I didn't realize that since the new Capitol, or the existing Capitol was built, there hasn't been a session held outside of the Capitol," he said. "That's incredible."

It still isn't clear when Gov. Dayton will call lawmakers back. Speaker Daudt said he thinks a special session could be held yet this week if an overall deal is reached by Wednesday night.

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