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Education finance bill gets final House, Senate approval – will Dayton veto?

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The education finance bill is heading to Gov. Mark Dayton, who has said he'll veto it because it doesn't give enough money to universal pre-kindergarten programs.

The bill passed the House 71-59 around 4:30 a.m. Monday. Later that day, the Senate voted 52-14, passing the bill with bipartisan support with just hours left of this year's session.

The measure doesn't include funding for the pre-k program that Dayton has pushed for this session, but it does include $400 million in new spending, including an early education scholarship program and School Readiness early learning programs, the Session Daily reports.

“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.

Dayton has threatened to veto any education funding bill unless there is at least $550 million in added funding, including for universal preschool programs.

Senators from both parties urged the governor to reconsider his threat to veto the bill following Monday's vote, noting the bill doesn't include everything they all wanted, but it does have programs that will help fund some early education programs.

Special session ... in a tent?

If Dayton vetoes the bill before the midnight deadline, there's a chance lawmakers could work out a last-minute compromise. If not, Dayton could call a special session to pass an education finance bill, Capitol Chatter notes.

Holding a special session this year could be difficult because the Capitol building is closing this week for renovations, leaving lawmakers no place to meet.

The governor has said they could set up a tent on the front lawn and hold the session there – and that wasn't a joke, WCCO reports.

Dayton says a tent would be cheaper than retrofitting a space or renting an auditorium, MPR News reports. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk responded to the idea, saying it "seems unlikely" lawmakers would agree to hold a special session outside.

If lawmakers don't settle on an education budget by July 1, it could force a government shutdown, WCCO notes.

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