Tonight at midnight, the 2015 session must end according to the state’s constitution. Legislative leaders have negotiated a two-year budget plan that, if signed into law by Governor Dayton, will spend $42 billion.
The legislature’s plan leaves $1 billion on the bottom line for them to negotiate with when they come back into session on March 8, 2016. The budget plan does not address a major transportation package that was touted after last November’s election. The budget plan also doesn’t include a major tax bill that could have cut a variety of taxes, provided aids to local governments and property tax relief.
The budget plan also doesn’t include funding for universal four-year-old preschool or UPK as it came to be called around the Capitol. The lack of UPK is the major hang for an orderly close of session. Governor Dayton is maintaining his veto threat if the legislature doesn’t fund at least a half-day universal four-year-old program.
The legislature seems poised to play chicken with the Governor on this issue, daring him to veto the $400 million E-12 bill. Legislative leaders have hinted that if he vetoes the bill, they won’t bother re-passing another bill and will rely on case law that requires the basic education formula to continue regardless of a new appropriations bill.
Those of us who remember the 2011 government shutdown recall the courts special master ruling that the basic formula continues, but other programs like special education and community education funds don’t. View the memo that the Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) released over the weekend on this subject.
Should the legislature not produce a half day UPK bill by midnight tonight and Dayton follows through with a veto of the E-12 bill he’s unlikely to call them back into special session right away. He hinted Sunday night that he would campaign around the state for UPK and hammer on House GOP members specifically and then call them back in. Hammering on the House GOP only isn’t exactly fair since the Senate DFL never passed his UPK proposal either.
Perhaps by the end of Monday night, the play to avoid a veto and a special session is that the Senate DFL will pass a half day UPK program, send it to the House at the last minute where the House will sit on it until the clock runs out. That way Dayton can say the proposal advanced through one body and he sets up the debate in 2016 as tax cuts versus the education of four year olds and transportation needs.
The other option for the Governor is to let the legislature’s E-12 bill become law without his signature. Since this is not an adjournment of “sine die” and is really a pause in the biennial session that will re-convene on March 8, 2016, the Governor has three days to either sign the bill, let it become law without his signature or veto it.
If he does veto the bill, the veto message is ineligible for consideration in a special session since that is a session in and unto itself. This means that the legislature in a special session could not consider the veto message on HF 844 specifically. In other words, they wouldn’t be able to take a vote to override the veto of HF 844. They would have to craft a new bill in special session for E-12.
It’s always a crazy ride at the end of a legislative session. This one is proving to be quite the show.