Gov. Dayton vetos Republican school shift buy-back bill

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed a Republican marque education initiative, a school shift buy-back bill that sought to tap state budget reserves to partially pay back more than $2 billion in school funding shifts.

“This is what I think is right for Minnesota,” said Dayton at a press conference of protecting the $1 billion in reserves.

Dayton, who in recent days has styled the Republican shift buy-back proposal as crafted with an eye towards the November election rather than fiscal soundness, today characterized the bill as “unwise and self-serving.”

Not that politically the proposal didn’t have a certain appeal, Dayton explained.

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter indicate the state budget could run negative at times in upcoming months and the proposed transfer of the $430 million from the budget reserves to pay down the shift  would have made the situation “a little bit worse.”

Senate Republican Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, said the shift buy-back bill  was very important to Republicans — he mentioned so-called Last In, First Out (LIFO) teacher layoff legislation as another important bill.

“That’s disappointing. It really is,” said Senjem of the veto.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, also called the veto “very disappointing.”

Zellers styled the governor’s three page veto letter as resembling a campaign piece more than an explanation for a veto of a relatively simple bill.

He indicated that House Republicans would continue to try to work out some kind of a school shift buy-back.

The “vast, vast” majority of Minnesotans. Zellers said, supports paying back debts.

Senate Tax Committee Chairwoman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, argued the governor’s veto of the shift buy-back bill illustrated the different philosophies of governance  between Republicans and Dayton.

The governor’s approach involves “taxes and spending and borrowing” while Republicans practice fiscal prudence.

Indeed, Senjem indicated Republicans are taking “total credit” for the turnaround in the state budget.

House and Senate Democratic leaders style the claim as an attempt to fool the public — “laughable,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Dayton in conversations with him made it very clear that he considered it unacceptable to tap into the state budget reserves.

“That’s not going to happen,” said Bakk of Dayton agreeing to whittle down the reserves.

Besides looking to tap the $430 million for the school shift buy-back, Senate Republicans look to trim another $100 million for use in their tax bill.

Ortman dismissed the idea suggested by Dayton that Republicans basically hadn’t sent him any job-creation legislation this session.

She pointed to tax increment financing provisions in the tax bill for suburban cities like Maple Grove and Apple Valley as job creators.

The governor has already indicated that he will not sign LIFO legislation and recently has spoken of some 20 Republican bill he deems as attacks on teachers, public employees, unions.

But the governor when asked about the possibility of mowing down scores of Republican bill with vetoes indicated that decision was not wholly his to make.

“It depends on what comes to me,” he said.

Speaking on other topics, Dayton indicated that he did not blame Republican leaders for the current shaky status of Vikings’ stadium legislation — the bill was late in coming, he indicated.

“The acid test lies ahead,” he said.

If the bill fails to move, that indicates to him that Republican legislative leaders don’t want it move, he said.

“I’ll be the last to know where it’s going,” Dayton quipped.

In the Senate the stadium legislation is currently hung up in the Local Government and Elections Committee.

Senjem depicted committee chairman Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, and Senate stadium bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, as “all huddling up” and trying to work out a solution.

On another topic, the Republican House action on April 4, to move the state’s primary elections from August to June, Dayton indicated he supported a June primary.

He has for decades, said Dayton.

Senjem, too, indicated he supported the switch.

Dayton will be remaining in Minnesota over next week.

“We’ll be around,” he said.

Lawmakers will be on spring recess until April 16.

But Ortman, for one, indicated that she would be available to talk taxes with the governor over the recess.

Bakk suggested that it looked like there may not be a bonding bill emerging from the session — Senate leaders are failing to act the Senate bill, he argued.

If there isn’t going to be bonding bill, then lawmakers should adjourn the session and go home for good.

That’s because there’s nothing to come back for, said Bakk.