Responding to what they say is uneven level of funding across school districts, Senate Republicans on Tuesday proposed giving school districts additional funding, about $175 per student in 2016, to use on locally-determined needs.
The money would come without "any new mandates or strings attached" and allow school districts to determine on their own how to use the additional dollars. It is expected to cost about $455 million over the next two years.
Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, is chief sponsor of the legislation intended to give schools flexibility in how to spend money. Nienow, the lead Republican on the Senate Education Committee, and fellow Republicans criticized recent DFL proposals that would provide universal preschool for all four-year-olds, more school counselors and money to fix aging school buildings, among other aims.
"What we've seen proposed by the Democrats either is nothing or is at best a one percent increase in basic funding to classrooms," Nienow said. "What we're proposing is smarter than that."
The additional funding proposed, under the Senate GOP plan, would rise to $180 per student in 2017 and would be allocated as "basic needs revenue" into a reserve account for districts to use.
In unveiling their education package, Republicans said it would provide more equity and criticized current "complicated education funding formulas."
Disparities in funding across school districts are based on a variety of factors. The state's basic per-pupil funding is currently $5,831, but some districts get more money for reasons that include declining enrollment and the makeup of their student populations. Gov. Mark Dayton in his recent budget proposal has called for a one percent increase in that basic funding formula in 2016 and an additional one percent in 2017.
The confusion over whether raises for Gov. Mark Dayton's cabinet will kick in automatically July 1 continues.
It's been the subject of considerable back-and-forth since a deal was crafted last week by legislative leaders and Dayton about the controversial raises, some of them as much as about $35,000, for the governor's commissioners.
The deal, which is wending its way through the legislative process, would entail the Legislature taking back authority to set commissioner pay July 2, delaying the raises until (at least) July 1 and trimming a few agency budgets for the raises paid out so far this year.
The question is whether the raises kick in automatically July 1 (the day before the Legislature gets authority back over commissioner pay) or whether Dayton would have to affirmatively grant the raises.
Either way, July 1 will offer Dayton a choice, but a more difficult one if he has to choose affirmatively to give the raises, if indeed that's what he wants to do. If, instead, they kick in automatically on July 1, he would simply do nothing.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he believes Dayton would have to make the affirmative choice to give the raises, and that House Republicans would try to persuade the governor not to do so.
Last week, Minnesota Management and Budget said that the raises kick in automatically.
Today, a spokesman for MMB said it's now uncertain: "We are looking at the current language and will make a determination on what it means -- if it is passed into law. It's not completely clear."
The deal on pay raises is attached to a stopgap spending bill that passed the House last week and will have a conference committee hearing today at the earliest.
Members of the DFL Senate and House unveiled a series of bills Thursday aimed at providing paid family leave, earned sick leave, among other workplace protections, they said would give Minnesotans economic security.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the package of bills is a "response to the real challenges facing families."
The labor-backed proposals contained in the so-called Working Parents Act have been unveiled in recent days and include a measure by Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, that would end erratic, last-minute scheduling of hourly workers by employees.
Another measured sponsored by Rep. Carly Melin-DFL-Hibbing, and Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, would create penalties for employers who skimp on workers' pay. Proponents on the measure say wage theft is a problem that disproportionately affects low-wage and immigrant workers.
The other bills would:
-- Provide sick leave for an estimated 1 million Minnesotans to care for themselves or family.
-- Another bill would prohibit restaurants from deducting credit card processing fees from their servers' tips.
-- Paid family leave would give families up to six weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, care for an elderly or ill family member or deal with pregnancy-related health concerns.
No cost of the bills was available Thursday.
Gov. Mark Dayton, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Wednesday they were close to striking a deal that would settle a festering dispute over the governor's recent pay raises for his agency commissioners.
Talks over those pay raises blew up last week between fellow DFLers Bakk and Dayton, who called the Senate majority leader "conniving" and a backstabber who had lost his trust.
Daudt, a Republican, has apparently been acting as an intermediary of sorts between the two DFLers; Daudt and Dayton met Wednesday morning at the governor's residence, and Daudt and Bakk have also been in touch in recent days. The goal has been agreeing on a budget deficiency bill that would include some sort of provision responding to Dayton's commissioner pay hikes, which have drawn the ire of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
"The governor is eager to get the focus of the session back to the priorities of Minnesotans," spokesman Linden Zakula said. "To that end, he is working with House and Senate leadership to pass the deficiency bill and bring the salary dispute to an end."
The budget deficiency bill contains about $16 million for several state agency that need small cash infusions to reach the June 30 end of the state's fiscal year. But it got wrapped up in the pay raise dispute after Bakk led an effort in the Senate to delay the pay raises until July 1.
(This post has been updated)
The two most powerful DFLers at the state Capitol had a bitter, public falling-out on Thursday as Gov. Mark Dayton accusing Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of "stabbing me in the back" amid an ongoing controversy over pay raises for state agency commissioners.
That came hours after the DFL-led Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to delay those salary hikes until July 1.
Dayton's rebuke of Bakk at a late afternoon news conference was unusually harsh. It followed Bakk's successful charge on the Senate floor earlier in the day to delay until July 1 Dayton's recent raises, which total $800,000 in additional pay per year to his 23 cabinet officers.
Dayton said he was strongly opposed to delaying the raises, and also said Bakk's maneuver came without warning.
"I'm very disappointed because I thought my relationship with Senator Bakk has always been positive and professional," Dayton said at an afternoon news conference. "I certainly learned a brutal lesson today that I can't trust him, can't believe what he says to me, and that he connives behind my back."
Through a spokeswoman, Bakk released a statement declining further comment except to suggest that he believed Dayton misunderstood their discussions about the pay issue.
Dayton's raises, which total about $800,000 in additional state spending per year, "most likely are warranted," Bakk said in a Senate floor speech. "But I think the challenge is, those of us in the Legislature and the public haven't had the opportunity to have a discussion about how pay has lagged for these department heads."
Under Bakk's amendment, which senators attached to a stopgap spending measure, Dayton would regain the authority to dole out the raises on July 1.
"Might he do it differently? That's yet to be seen," Bakk said.
Bakk's amendment passed 63-2, with just two DFL senators dissenting: Patricia Torres Ray of Minneapolis and Sandra Pappas of St. Paul. Republicans backed Bakk's move, but were unsuccessful in passing a more aggressive amendment that would have yanked the pay raises and Dayton's authority to make them entirely.
"I don't see why anybody in this body would not want to reassert our legislative authority," said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville.
House Republicans have also sought to undermine the pay raises in recent days, with that body's version of the stopgap spending bill also including a provision subtracting money from several agency budgets that's equal to the amount those department commissioners got in original pay.
Dayton said if the House adopts the Senate changes to the stopgap spending bill, he will veto it.
Dayton has bristled at House Republican criticism of the raises, noting numerous House employees make similar salaries. He has defended the raises as necessary to attract top talent to his administration.