By Patrick Condon and Ricardo Lopez
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt ended up separated by only $25 million in education spending as they tried but failed in the session's closing hours to avert Dayton's threatened veto of an education funding bill.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Dayton Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher both met and talked with Daudt throughout the day Monday on the governor's behalf. Sources inside the administration told the Star Tribune on Tuesday that Dayton was finally willing to accept $125 million in spending above what the Legislature had already approved for schools, but that Daudt was unwilling to go higher than $100 million.
Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, confirmed to the Star Tribune that Daudt on behalf of House Republicans was willing to back another $100 million for education but that Dayton wanted $125 million.
Dayton wanted the additional money to be spent on early learning programs, but offered some flexibility beyond his preferred approach of a universal preschool offering in every public school with a plan to distribute it to schools through what's known as "school readiness funds."
Administration sources said Dayton also would have supported school aid increases to districts of 2 percent in each of the next two years. House Republicans were seeking that amount.
Dayton is scheduled to talk to the press at 2 p.m. Tuesday to talk about the education bill and other state budget bills that now await his signature or veto.
Administration sources said Dayton also said he would support school-aid funding increases of 2 percent in each of the next two years. House Republicans were seeking that amount.
"The governor seems dug in that he wants everything he wants," Loon said. She added: "I just think there was a way out of this ... it's unfortunate it didn't happen."