GOP agrees to a 5% overall spending increase, Governor Dayton says he’ll veto

The Minnesota House has agreed to an overall budget target of $41.5 billion, a 5% increase from the previous biennium general fund spending, but the number isn’t high enough for Governor Dayton.  The Governor wants another $173 million to establish half-day universal PreK and $150 million for other K-12 funding.

At the end of the legislative session, major reforms like establishing “Minnesota Care II” to handle healthcare for lower-income Minnesotans, were pushed aside.  Critical transportation needs and tax relief measures were kicked down the road until next year’s session.  The bulk of the surplus is being kept in St. Paul where its use will be debated during an election year.

The budget battle has boiled down to education with the teacher’s union pushing hard for more funding.  Alpha News has previously reported that the Policy Director for Education Minnesota, Carrie Lucking, is married to Bob Hume who is a Senior Adviser to the Governor.  The likely coordination with the Governor’s mansion seems evident in these final negotiations.

The Republican House had initially sought a 0.5% increase to the state’s per pupil spending allocation, the Governor wanted 2% and the parties had seemingly settled at 1.5% with a K-12 budget increase of $400 million over two years.  That increase is 2.4% from the previous biennium. But now the Governor is back to wanting the full 2% increase in the per pupil expenditure equating to $150 million in additional spending.

The Republican House budget also pumped an additional $30 million into the existing low-income scholarship program for a total budget of $60 million over two years.  The program started with a $4 million allocation in 20011 from the Republican-controlled legislature.  Dayton would keep this funding, but is adamant about creating universal PreK now and vetoing the entire budget should the Republicans not agree to an additional $173 million for the program.

Should the Governor get his way, education spending would increase by $723 million– a 26% increase since the 2008-2009 biennium for the new “E-12” system.   Dayton has already said he’ll veto the bill that the Republican House and DFL-Senate have agreed upon which could lead to another government shutdown.