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Dayton blasts lawmakers over budget bills

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Gov. Mark Dayton sharply criticized legislative leaders Wednesday for a number of the budget bills released by lawmakers this week.

While many of his complaints were aimed at House Republicans, he also faulted Democrats in the Senate for not  making what he called a serious commitment to fund his plan for universal pre-kindergarten.

Dayton said  he's shocked that House Republicans are increasing state funding for schools by less than 1 percent for each year of the biennium and aren't funding his plan to make preschool available to every four-year-old in the state.

“I consider that unacceptable and insulting," Dayton said. "Not insulting to me but insulting to everybody who knows the value of early childhood education."

Dayton said he won’t begin to negotiate with lawmakers on the budget until they start funding schools “at acceptable levels.”

Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, who chairs the House Education Finance Committee, said her bill is aimed at students with the greatest need and that it's more affordable than the governor’s plan.

Dayton also went after House Republicans for their state government bill that cuts spending by about 7 percent, caps state employment and makes changes to the Metropolitan Council.

He’s particularly concerned about its rollback of the Metropolitan Council chairman’s salary to part-time after he recently made it a full-time position.

“If somebody else in the Legislature wants to run the executive branch of state government, they should run for governor," he said. "They’ll have an opportunity in the future to do so. But I got elected to do this job, and I’m not going to tolerate people coming in there with no advance warning, no offer to discuss anything."

Dayton also panned a proposed tax measure in the House that would cut $85 million in state aid to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.

"Once again, we really have nothing to talk about," he said. "This gets to be political theater of the totally absurd."

House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers,  said the state's largest cities shouldn't be getting more local government aid (LGA) per person that other cities throughout the state.

"Minneapolis and St. Paul do get a large portion of LGA. I think the whole program need to be looked at, frankly," she said. "Some cities get LGA, and some cities don't. And I think that's a program that probably needs to be reevaluated."

City officials also criticized the House LGA plan.

“Minneapolis contributes far more to the State in sales, income, and property taxes than it receives," said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. "The House GOP is proposing a 45 percent cut in local government aid to Minneapolis. If this happens, we’ll have no choice but to make cuts to core public services, like police, fire and street maintenance. And make no mistake about it, those cuts will affect not only the people who live in Minneapolis but also those who work in and visit our city.”