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House Republicans want special session soon

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Daudt May 20
House Speaker Kurt Daudt talked about the accomplishments of the 2015 session and the need for a special session to pass an education bill. Tim Pugmire|MPR News.

Minnesota House Republicans say negotiations on a special session education bill should pick up where they left off at the close of the regular session.

Those talks broke down Monday night with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton backing off his demand for universal preschool funding, but still insisting on higher overall spending for schools. The two sides were about $25 million apart at the end.

Dayton, who promised to veto the education bill and call a special session to pass a new one, said Tuesday that negotiations are now back to square one.

But during a news conference Wednesday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said a restart is not necessary.

“I think the governor realizes that pre-K right now is going to be a heavy lift for him,” Daudt said. “Not because it isn’t a great initiative and that we don’t care about those kids, it’s just that legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, prefer to put money on the formula and let school districts decide how to spend it. It’s kind of a local control issue.”

Daudt said would prefer that the governor call a special session soon to provide some certainty to school districts. A new education bill is needed by June 30 to keep the Minnesota Department of Education operating.

During an interview on WCCO Radio, Dayton said a special session agreement will require everyone to compromise.

“I don’t know how intransigent the House Republicans are going to be, but if they want to get it done, we can get it done,” Dayton said.

House Republicans are also calling on the governor to apologize for remarking Tuesday that some Republicans hate public schools.

The chair of the House education finance committee, Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, said she’s a proud public school parent.

“I’m not going to shortchange a system where my own children, the thing most precious to me, goes to school,” Loon said. “That’s not a responsible statement on the part of the governor.”

Meanwhile Democrats announced and then postponed a fundraiser that was to be hosted Thursday afternoon by Dayton, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and a number of DFL legislative leaders.  Billed as a"post-session briefing," the cost of attendance ranged from $100 to $1,000.

A DFL Party spokesperson said the fundraiser was postponed until further notice as Dayton and other Democrats prepare for a special session.