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Politics with J. Patrick Coolican

State budget maneuvering signals trouble

Good morning.

Omnibus budget bills are beginning to come together, with several committees meeting today, including Education Finance. Budget negotiation friction points are emerging, as Briana Bierschbach of MinnPost points out on Twitter that the education budget bill eliminates funding for Gov. Mark Dayton’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program. The omnibus bill has other ideas of how to approach early-learning, which mirrors the big preschool debate of 2015. Having covered that extensively during my first legislative session, this feels a bit like déjà vu.

Dayton in a statement reacting to the snub: "It looks like the House Republicans intend to use pre-kindergarten funding as a bargaining chip in the upcoming budget negotiations. It is appalling that the best interests of Minnesota four year-olds are being used as a political bargaining chip by House Republicans.”

Gunning for one of Dayton’s top priorities of his second term is going to set things up poorly for end-of-session budget negotiations, particularly since before the 2016 election, some of the governor’s top initiatives were seen by some as settled. Their sweep of the Legislature, however, has emboldened Republicans, who see a governing mandate and will re-litigate many Dayton accomplishments, including his waterway buffers law and other environmental protection policies.

The second year of the two-year legislative session will be very unlike the first. We saw big compromises on the health premium relief bill, with Republicans eventually adopting Dayton’s proposal to implement the rebates. If we were flying, this is the point in the flight where we begin to encounter turbulence. Buckle up, folks. It’s going to get interesting. Thankfully there’s the Easter break which should provide a breather before things really get going.

The silver lining: Dayton administration still high on Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, described as a straight shooter who they can work with. (Also: he’s not running for governor in 2018, so certainly that makes things easier.) His one-vote majority in the Senate leaves Gazelka little room to adopt a more conservative agenda. That will be a dynamic to watch as we get closer to sine die.

Meanwhile, in Washington, tensions are high over the looming health-care repeal vote. Late Thursday, after the House scuttled a planned vote because of a lack of support, President Trump issued an ultimatum: Pass the bill Friday or Obamacare stays. That’s pretty major and would represent a massive blow to Trump’s agenda, not to mention embarrass Republicans who have for years said they would repeal the former president’s signature domestic policy achievement. Dan Balz of the Washington Post has a good analysis outlining their problem.

In Minnesota, officials announced Thursday that they have surpassed the $200 million threshold of private investment for the Destination Medical Center project in Rochester. This unlocks nearly $600 million in state funds for infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years. Matt McKinney has the story.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau gets major recognition, ranking No. 22 in Forbes’ list of World’s Greatest Leaders. Mayor Betsy Hodges is effusive in her praise, even though a DOJ report on the 18-day Fourth Precinct encampment and protest found a major breakdown in communication between police and city hall. Minneapolis Police union president disagrees with Forbes: “Not to discredit the chief, but I question the criteria they list to place her there.”

MPD related: An internal probe has been launched to look into why a U law professor was charged with rape without corroborating evidence.

DFL State Fair donut booth is now a target for House Republicans. Who knew donuts could be tinged by partisan politics. MPR News’ Brian Bakst with the story.

Busy schedule at the Legislature today as finance bills get worked on. Full schedule here.

Dayton has no public events today. LG Tina Smith hits the road, making a stop in Winona to promote Dayton’s bonding bill.

With that, have an excellent Friday.

-- Ricardo Lopez

 


 

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