The Minnesota House has passed an education finance bill which Governor Mark Dayton has said he would veto as he wants to see more money be given to universal pre-kindergarten programs.
Although the pre-k program funding is not included, the $17 billion bill does include $400 million in new spending. That money will be used for an early education scholarship program as well as School Readiness early learning programs, among other things.
“This is truly a bipartisan bill, one that devotes and prioritizes funding for every pupil in the state of Minnesota, prioritizes early learning making sure we get kids off to a great start to close the achievement gap,” Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, who sponsored the bill, said during the House debate early Monday.
However, Dayton has threatened to veto any education finance bill that did not offer at least $550 million in additional funding, some of which he would like to be put towards a universal pre-kindergarten program, writes Melissa Turtinen for Bring Me The News. He has repeatedly said his number one priority is to get enough money for all 4-year-olds in the state to attend school. “I will veto, again, I will veto a $400 million bill,” Dayton said.
Meanwhile, Senators from both sides have expressed to the governor that he should reconsider his veto. They maintain that although not everything is included in the bill, it does include a number of programs that will help to fund some early education programs in Minnesota.
If Dayton does choose to veto the bill before the deadline, lawmakers may be able to create a last-minute compromise. However, if this does not happen, a special session could be called in order to pass an education finance bill, although that could be difficult to do as the Capitol building has recently been closed for renovations and lawmakers are without a meeting place.
“I regret the consequences [of a veto], but I regret just as much the consequences of not providing prekindergarten for 40,000 children in Minnesota,” Dayton said. He contended that House Republicans prefer to leave more than $1 billion in state funds unspent in order to push a large tax cut next year.
The state currently has a budget surplus of almost $2 billion, writes Patrick Condon for The Star Tribune.
The governor suggested setting up a tent outside the building because it would be cheaper than renting a space.
If an education budget is not agreed upon by July 1, it could force a government shutdown.