Minnesota state lawmakers pulled an all-nighter Sunday and face another long day Monday as they try to get a budget bill passed by the midnight deadline. The final hours of the legislative session may come down to a battle of universal preschool.
Senate Democrats passed the Health and Human Services budget, delivering on its commitment to protect MinnesotaCare. Then, overnight, the Republican-controlled House voted along party lines for a $17 billion education plan, with $400 million in new spending. Gov. Mark Dayton says he'll veto the bill because House Republicans refuse to add the $171 million needed for universal preschool.
"I will veto," Gov. Dayton said. "I'll repeat again. I will veto a $400 million bill that leaves a billion dollars on the bottom line while denying $171 million for universal pre-K for 4 year old. It's just not acceptable."
However, many members of his own party simply don't agree.
"The Governor is not very happy with us right now and I well understand that," Sen. Alice Johnson (DFL-Blaine) said.
The legislative compromise bill spends $60 million additional dollars on early education. Some of the money goes to the already existing school readiness program, while the rest goes to early learning scholarships targeted toward needy families.
In a memo, the Commissioner of Education and of Management and Budget say no bill shuts down the Department of Education. It would also force the layoff of 400 state workers, leave no way to process payments to school districts, which could force teacher layoffs.
"A veto of the bill before us today would be bad for students, their parents, communities across the state," Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) said.
If Dayton vetoes the bill on Monday and there is no time for the legislature to vote on an override, he will have to call them back for a special session sometime before July 1.