In veto message, Dayton rails against ‘astonishing’ education bill; promises to call special session

Let’s try this again.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton made it clear Tuesday afternoon that he planned to veto an education budget with a $400 million spending increase passed by legislators over the weekend, which he warned doesn’t spend enough on his top priorities, including universal preschool. As soon as he can reach an agreement to break the impasse with Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, Dayton said he will call a special session to re-pass the education bill. 

To remove any doubt that he planned to do so, Dayton released his veto letter to the media before lawmakers had even delivered the education bill to his office. And he railed against House Republicans for leaving $1 billion of a nearly $2 billion budget surplus to deal with transportation and tax cut priorities later, but refused to put more money into education, his top priority. “It is astonishing that with a $1.9 billion surplus and still more than $1 billion left on the bottom line for future tax cuts that there would not be more invested in our schools this year,” Dayton said.

The governor’s objections to the legislative deal have been known since Friday, when Daudt and Bakk announced they had reached a tentative budget deal. Dayton quickly made it known he wasn’t satisfied with their agreement: He wanted an additional $150 million spent on education over the next two years, some of that on his signature priority: universal, half-day preschool education. 

Over the weekend, he promised to veto the education bill if it came to his desk without those provisions, and in the final moments of session Monday night, Dayton’s staff and legislative leaders were trying to scrap together a compromise. 

Dayton said he offered to lower his total request to $125 million more in education spending and drop his insistence on universal preschool. Instead, he wanted some of that money to go toward Head Start programs, promise school neighborhoods and school readiness. Republicans offered to add another $100 million to their plan to boost spending on the per-pupil spending formula, but no deal was reached in time. 

Dayton wouldn’t say whether the pieces of that proposal will be in play in an upcoming special session, or if he would insist on his universal preschool program in negotiations. “I haven’t decided that yet, but I don’t call a special session until my concerns are satisfied,” he said. “I’m willing to compromise here.” 

Daudt isn’t convinced the governor can make the case for his plan in a special session. 

“[Dayton] had five months to build the support and gain the votes in the Legislature for his number one priority, and unfortunately it didn’t pass either body. That’s not my problem; the governor didn’t do the work to building the support for his priority,” Daudt said after session adjourned Monday night. “It doesn’t mean that it can’t, and it doesn’t mean that it’s not important, it just means that it didn’t happen in time. I don’t know what difference a special session is going to make to change that.” 

Several other bills could also come into play in a special session, including a public works construction package and a Legacy funding bill. Both failed to pass in the final hours of the session, and both proposals contain funding pieces of a compromise reached on creating buffer strips between farmland and the state’s waterways, another top priority for Dayton. “Both of those are essential,” Dayton said, noting that he would have to reach a pre-special session agreement with both legislative leaders on what could be taken up. 

Dayton plans to review and either veto or sign all the budget bills by Friday and then open the door to set terms of the special session. 

Holding the special session will prove difficult this year: The 109-year-old Capitol is under construction for a multiyear restoration project, and there’s nowhere for lawmakers to return to take votes. 

Dayton has proposed holding the session on the Capitol lawn under a tent, and he reiterated Tuesday that he still thinks that plan could work. But his Department of Administration is looking into other options within St. Paul, where — according to the state constitution — any special session must be held. 

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by John Appelen on 05/19/2015 - 05:19 pm.


    I especially like this satement from the man who resists any attempts to hold the Education System and It’s personnel accountable for their performance / results.

    “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.”

    And on top of that, as discussed elsewhere… If ALL children get extra assistance, it is unlikely that the gap will close. If one wants to close a gap, the people on the low end need all the help they can handle… I do not understand what he is thinking…

    Finally I appreciate his belief that “the $400 million wasn’t enough given the state’s nearly $2 billion surplus.” The assumption being that times are good, so we should raise the long term costs of government by adding an open ended responsibility. Based on his rationale that we should spend more because we have more, would he be happy to chop programs and funding during the next recession when revenues tank?

  2. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 05/19/2015 - 09:01 pm.

    More details

    I the negotiation, Dayton made most of the moving, but Daudt didn’t budge. I guess all that Republican rhetoric about caring for the poor, to “give them a hand up” was just that, rhetoric.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2015 - 09:38 pm.


    Who does Daudt think is kidding? And who does he think he’s dealing with?

    • Submitted by Joseph Skar on 05/20/2015 - 07:55 am.

      Who does he think he’s dealing with?

      People’s Stadium comes to mind.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/20/2015 - 09:33 am.

        My answer was going to be, a group of people who want to spend more indefinitely because they have a temporary boost in income. It reminds me of what the wise hourly assemblers say… “Never increase your long term cost of living just because you are earning overtime for a few months, or you will be struggling when the overtime pay dries up.”

        By the way, I forgot to mention over at this site. The GOP folks are not too bright either. They also want to make long term tax adjustments based on this “temporary overtime pay.”

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/20/2015 - 09:10 am.

    It’s important to note…

    That Dayton’s Pre-K plan wasn’t the only victim of this budget. Head Start, Special Ed, free lunch and breakfast, an other sundry programs also got cut.

    We have to remember that for almost a decade our public school system endured a constant financial assault. Budgets were cut, hundreds of teachers laid off, school weeks shortened, reserves raided to pay for other stuff etc. So $400 million more spending might look a big deal, and I’m not saying it isn’t, but we’re not just trying improve a fully funded system, we’re still repairing the damage from previous financial assaults. In may ways this budget is just another assault even though it increases funding. The fact that $400 million still isn’t enough just tells you how far behind we’ve fallen.

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