School shift buy-back bill vetoed
Measure was central to Republicans’ efforts
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed on April 5 a Republican marque education initiative, a school shift buy-back bill that sought to tap state budget reserves to partially pay back more than $2 billion in school funding shifts.
“This is what I think is right for Minnesota,” Dayton said at a press conference last week of protecting the $1 billion in reserves.
Dayton, who in recent days has described the Republican-proposed shift buy-back as crafted with an eye toward the November election rather than fiscal soundness, characterized the bill as “unwise and self-serving.”
Not that politically the proposal didn’t have a certain appeal, Dayton explained of the bill that was carried in the House by Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.
Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter indicated the state budget could run negative at times in upcoming months and the proposed transfer of the $430 million from the budget reserves to pay down the shift would have made the situation “a little bit worse.”
Senate Republican Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, said the shift buy-back bill was very important to Republicans — he mentioned so-called Last In, First Out teacher layoff legislation as another important bill.
“That’s disappointing. It really is,” Senjem said of the veto.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, also called the veto “very disappointing.”
Zellers described the governor’s three-page veto letter as resembling a campaign piece more than an explanation for a veto of a relatively simple bill.
He indicated that House Republicans would continue to try to work out some kind of a school shift buy-back.
The “vast, vast” majority of Minnesotans, Zellers explained, supports paying back debts.
Senate Tax Committee Chairwoman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, argued the governor’s veto of the shift buy-back bill illustrated the different philosophies of governance between Republicans and Dayton.
The governor’s approach involves “taxes and spending and borrowing” while Republicans practice fiscal prudence.
Senjem indicated Republicans are taking “total credit” for the turnaround in the state budget.
House and Senate Democratic leaders describe the claim as an attempt to fool the public — “laughable,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Dayton in conversations with him made it very clear that he considered it unacceptable to tap into the state budget reserves.
“That’s not going to happen,” Bakk said of Dayton agreeing to whittle down the reserves.
Besides looking to tap the $430 million for the school shift buy-back, Senate Republicans look to trim another $100 million for use in their tax bill.
Ortman dismissed the idea suggested by Dayton that Republicans basically hadn’t sent him any job-creation legislation this session.
She pointed to tax-increment financing provisions in the tax bill for suburban cities like Maple Grove and Apple Valley as job creators.
The governor has already indicated that he will not sign LIFO legislation and recently has spoken of some 20 Republican bills he deems as attacks on teachers, public employees and unions.
But the governor when asked about the possibility of mowing down scores of Republican bills with vetoes indicated that decision was not all his to make.
“It depends on what comes to me,” he said.
T.W. Budig can be reached at email@example.com.