Despite a veto threat from Gov. Mark Dayton, the Legislature's education conference committee has signed off on an education budget bill that includes less funding than the governor said he'll accept.
The bill includes $400 million in additional funding, less than the $550 million that Dayton said he wanted to begin offering universal pre-kindergarten education in the state.
Dayton said earlier Sunday that he will veto the lesser amount because it doesn't include the funding necessary for that initiative.
Both house of the Legislature must still approve the bill, and it's possible lawmakers will try to amend it during floor debate.
The impasse threatens to derail the Legislature as time ticks away to the end of the 2015 session, which by mandate must end on Monday at midnight.
Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith met separately Sunday afternoon with DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, followed by Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt, to discuss the impasse.
Daudt said after his meeting with the governor that it was Dayton's fault for not building broader support for the pre-K initiative earlier in the session.
The DFL governor laid the blame for the impasse on House Republicans.
Bakk has called Dayton's veto threat "risky" because if he does so, Republicans may respond by offering even less money for schools.
The veto threat increases the chance of a special session, which could be costly. The Star Tribune notes it could interrupt the Capitol renovation schedule, which would cost the state millions and leave legislators without a place to hold the special session.
It also may lead to a mini shutdown in the Department of Education, which would affect school funding statewide.
Lawmakers have a long list of bills to act on before adjournment, and both houses were planning to meet late Sunday night and for a good part of the day Monday.
Conference committees reached agreement on several measures, according to MPR News, including:
- A higher education funding bill which increases spending for the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU system by $166 million. That's not enough to continue a tuition freeze for students for another two years.
- A bare-bones transportation bill, which doesn't make any major headway on repairing and replacing deteriorating roads and bridges. A larger package will likely be addressed next year.
- A health and human services bill which doesn't make any major changes to health care coverage, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It does include and additional $138 million for nursing homes and $30 million in new spending on programs addressing mental illness.