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Dayton still holds hope for special session on tax, bonding bills

MOORHEAD, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton still holds "a glimmer" of hope for a special session to pass tax and bonding bills this year. Dayton, who opened the first day of classes with a tour of Moorhead's Probstfield Elementary School on Tuesday, Sept...

MOORHEAD, Minn. – Gov. Mark Dayton still holds “a glimmer” of hope for a special session to pass tax and bonding bills this year.

Dayton, who opened the first day of classes with a tour of Moorhead’s Probstfield Elementary School on Tuesday, Sept. 6, said in a news conference that he’d still like to see a special session to address tax and bonding issues before lawmakers get too involved in the election cycle leading leading up to the Nov. 8 vote.

“We’ll see if it’s possible,” Dayton said. “Both bills I’d like to sign.”

Moorhead-area lawmakers have focused on two big items contained in the bills: a railroad separation underpass at Main and 20th and 21st streets on the east side of the city to separate cars from trains and improve safety and emergency response times in the city; and a 40 percent tax break for agricultural land on property taxes tied to school construction bonds.

Dayton indicated he will also seek more funding for K-12 education if there are surplus revenues in the budget forecast. He said he’d like to have the state take on more of the burden of education funding, rather than continue relying as heavily on a system in which local school districts must go to voters for approval of levies to fill gaps in funding.

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Dayton, who talked with mental health interventionists at Probstfield, said he also supports more integration of mental health and social services help in education.

He added that he will continue to seek more funding for pre-kindergarten in Minnesota’s public schools. In the last session, lawmakers approved $25 million in funding helps school districts across the state serve about 3,300 4-year-olds.

Dayton visited several classrooms in Probstfield, which acts as a kindergarten center for the district, with about 500 kindergartners enrolled to start the 2016-17 school year.

A couple of classes of children crowded around the governor to see photos of his German shepherds Mingo and Itasca. And in Spanish immersion teacher Carmen Valero’s class, Dayton read the children a book.

Superintendent Lynne Kovash was happy the state’s top executive made Probstfield one of his stops.

“I can’t remember when we’ve had a governor here,” Kovash said. “What a wonderful idea to have a governor here for our kids. It’s just wonderful to have someone from St. Paul here.”

Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-District 4, which includes Clay, Norman and part of Becker counties, agreed with Dayton that the state needs to step up on education funding.

“We need to do more,” he said. “I think the state needs to pick up more of the responsibility.”

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Eken said he’d also like to see the agricultural tax break for school bond issues pass this year, rather than renegotiating the issue with a new set of lawmakers in the next session.

“I’m glad the governor is still saying there’s some hope for a special session,” he said.

A special session would also be important for flood mitigation, wastewater treatment, and other tax relief needed in this part of the state, Eken said.

He said taking the Twin Cities’ Southeast Light Rail project off the table for negotiations should help in any special session talks.

“I’m not giving up yet. I think we need to push as hard as we can” before the November election, Eken said.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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