Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has vetoed a proposed education finance bill, causing a need for special session of the legislature in the state.
Dayton had said he would veto any bill that did not go above $400 million for public schools and meet his top priority of creating a universal pre-kindergarten system. The bill that lawmakers ended up passing offered no funding for the program, which would offer access to preschool for all 4-year-olds across the state. He had spent the past two weeks lobbying House Republicans and Senate Democrats to add the additional spending into the bill.
Just before the end of the legislative session, Dayton had offered to sign the other budget bills and drop the universal pre-k program in exchange for an agreement to add $125 million for education items. However, Republicans denied his offer.
According to Dayton, Republican legislators do not support a universal pre-K program in the state.
"They hate the public schools, some of the Republican legislators," the governor said. "They're loathe to provide any additional money for public schools and for public school teachers because all of the good programs I've seen around this state for pre-K and all-day kindergarten. All of those programs contradict what they say, which is public schools do things badly."
The bill that did pass offered an additional $400 million for education over the next two years. Most of that would go toward per-pupil spending. In addition, $60 million went to early childhood education, although not for a universal pre-K program, writes Tom Scheck for MPR News.
Dayton wrote a veto letter to House Speaker Kurt Daudt, saying the $400 million was not enough, as the state currently has a $2 billion surplus. He went on to say it was "incomprehensible that estate tax cuts for millionaires and property tax relief for large corporations are higher priorities for your House Republican Caucus than investing adequately in our students and young children."
Dayton argued that the proposed education bill did not include funding for items he had specifically said were mandatory, including funding for the elimination of the waiting list for the Head Start program for low income students, as well as funding for the Bureau of Indian Education Schools and Special Education, English Learning Programs and Regional Centers which help the state's most struggling schools.
Dayton closes his letter saying, "Throughout this session, I have heard passionate rhetoric from your members about the urgent need to close the achievement gap. This bill belies that rhetoric, and instead chooses to shortchange our youngest students for future tax cuts."
Because of the veto, lawmakers will be called back in for a special session. Another round of negotiations will occur in an effort to reach a deal.