ST. PAUL - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has dropped priority after priority in his effort to get a state budget passed before the June 30 deadline.
Prime among the casualties was offering classes to 4-year-olds across the state. The final item Dayton gave up was his insistence on reversing a law he just signed that gave away some of the state auditor’s power.
Dayton said he gave up on some of his priorities in an effort to finish passing a $42 billion, two-year budget. He said Tuesday he expects to call a special legislative session no later than Friday to repass three bills he vetoed, a public works funding bill and a measure spending money on outdoors and arts projects.
But once that special session, which is supposed to last less than a day, has come and gone, Dayton’s dreams will remain. They probably will form the basis of his 2016 legislative session to-do list.
The Democratic governor promises that he will return with the pre-kindergarten proposal. He has three years left in what he calls his final term to accomplish that.
Dayton also said he will continue fighting to overturn the auditor provision.
The governor complained that the special session likely will consider a public works bill, funded by the state selling bonds, that he says is too small. It would spend $180 million in borrowed money to be repaid by general taxes, with $373 million being borrowed for all projects, including those to be repaid by funds such as coming in from gasoline taxes.
The so-called bonding bill is less than a quarter of the size of one Dayton proposed earlier this year, leaving plenty of projects, ranging from fixing leaky roofs to buying land for parks, available to debate next year. Even-numbered years usually are when lawmakers approve big bonding bills.
Dayton wants pieces of legislation that failed in the regular session that ended May 18 taken up in special session. But when questioned, he said he would not demand that they be on the agenda before he calls a special session.
In a letter to House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, Dayton said he wants more money for rural high-speed Internet connections, known as broadband. “I am perplexed by your refusal to increase funding ... after your repeated promises to provide additional help to Greater Minnesota,” he wrote.
Dayton recommended $30 million to expand broadband in the next two years, but the compromise approved this year includes $10.6 million.
Another bonding proposal not expected to be a major part of the special session was meant to prepare the state for a federal judge’s order on Minnesota sex offender treatment that is due in the next few days.
Dayton proposed $10.8 million to build two sex offender facilities, an amount reduced to $560,000 in the special session bonding bill.
A federal judge soon will hand down a ruling about whether the state sex offender program is constitutional, and he already has made it clear he does not think it is. He likely will order the state to make changes, which could include better facilities designed to lead toward releasing offenders from the state hospitals where they now are locked up.
After Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, and Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, D-Plummer, last week negotiated the special session bonding bill, criticism arose that it did not fund replacing three of the four railroad crossings Dayton calls the most dangerous.
The compromise bill funds crossings in Willmar, Rainy River and Plymouth. Torkelson said that legislative leaders did not give him enough money to pay for more expensive ones on the governor’s list in Moorhead, Coon Rapids and Prairie Island Indian Community.
The governor is expected to renew his request for the three crossing improvements he wanted, as well as increasing an assessment on railroads for other rail safety improvements.