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The magic number? GOP, Dayton reach deal on education funding

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Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House leaders have reached a deal on education funding for the next two-year state budget to break a deadlock over the issue that threatened to shut down parts of the state government.

Dayton said at a news conference Monday afternoon he'll accept the Republican's new offer in principle – but warned there's still more to get done.

The Star Tribune reports the deal came together when Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt offered to increase funding for public school education by $525 million over the current budget, which is the same amount Dayton offered in the closing hours of the legislative session last month.

The Republicans turned down that offer at the time, but Daudt said they would now accept it. Dayton had said recently he wouldn't accept anything less than a $550 million increase, according to the Associated Press.

But at the Monday news conference, Dayton said he would agree to the GOP offer.

The total education budget is about $17 billion, the Star Tribune notes.

Dayton offered last week to give up his priority of free preschool statewide, in exchange for the $550 million increase in overall school funding.

But the House GOP countered with policy changes that Dayton opposes: repealing a requirement that teacher layoffs be based on seniority, and rolling back a rule allowing transgender students to use the locker rooms and bathrooms of the gender they identify with.

Those policy changes were removed from the GOP offer Monday, the Star Tribune reports.

Senate DFL Majority Leader Tom Bakk, who was not involved in the budget talks, said in a statement that he's happy the state will avoid a partial government shutdown.

"I agree with the Governor that shutting down state government is not the responsible way to resolve these negotiations," Bakk said.

Other issues remain

The parties must also reach agreement on two other budget bills that Dayton vetoed – the jobs and energy bill and the environment funding bill.

Daudt said Monday progress is being made on both those measures, but the governor indicated he's not yet happy with them, especially the environment bill.

The governor and the Legislature have exactly one month to reach a budget deal to avoid a partial government shutdown. Layoff notices were expected to go out Monday to almost 9,500 state employees.

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