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This weekend, Gov. Dayton said that he’d campaign around the state before he called a special session. It looks like he’s started campaigning already:

He’s charging up his rhetoric, too:

“I’m doing what I believe is the best for Minnesota. Again, this is not about who gets wins and losses – and gets their number one priority or anything else. This is about what’s right for Minnesota. This is what’s best for people who have got to drink the water. Right now, it’s declining in quality all over the state as both the Department of Health and Pollution Control Agency have documented in the last couple weeks.

This is about four-year-olds and their parents and giving them a better chance in life. And giving kids from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance in life. That’s what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for the kids of Minnesota. I’m fighting for the parents of Minnesota. I’m fighting for the parents of those kids. I’m fighting for the people who need to drink quality water and think they are but will be horribly shocked that they’re not. That’s what I’m fighting for.

“My wins and losses are not important to me anymore. Doing what’s right for Minnesota is what’s important to me. I’m not running again. I’m not here to win or lose political points for myself. I’m here to win for people of Minnesota.”

That’s BS. Gov. Dayton should be ashamed of himself peddling this as a policy that helps children and parents. Art Rolnick, who dedicated his life to improving early childhood learning, opposes Gov. Dayton’s bill, saying that the program should be targeted to those most at risk and delivered through scholarships. Dr. Rolnick says that the alternative to Gov. Dayton’s plan is less expensive and is more effective.

The Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) opposes Gov. Dayton’s initiative because it’ll raise their operating costs and force them to add onto schools, which will drive up their citizens’ property taxes.

Gov. Dayton, what part of those concerns says that your initiative will improve 4-year-olds’ lives? Gov. Dayton, how will raising property taxes on parents improve their lives?

The simple truth is that Gov. Dayton’s speech is Education Minnesota-approved spin. Anyone that thinks this is about brilliant public policy is kidding themselves or they’re incredibly ill-informed. This initiative, in its current form, is payback to Education Minnesota. Period.

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If the universal pre-K bill that the Dayton-Tina Smith administration supports got votes based on what’s good policy, it wouldn’t have made it out of committee. It certainly wouldn’t still be alive with 20+ hrs. left in the session. This article just adds to the policy justifications for killing the Dayton-Smith bill:

Rolnick, now a policy fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has made researching early childhood education a big part of his life’s work. He argues that the earlier kids start a good education, the better off they will be in life. But he doesn’t back the governor’s universal preschool plan for 4-year-olds.

“It’s not cost effective,” Rolnick said. “There’s a much better way of doing this.” Rolnick prefers an existing scholarship program that pays for needy children to attend Head Start, a child care facility or a public school program that meets quality standards. He said Dayton’s plan is misguided because it would subsidize early education for all kids rather than target low-income children who need early education the most and are the least likely to have access to it.

Unfortunately, people who like great public policy have one strike against them. This paragraph highlights what’s missing:

The governor’s plan is backed by the state teachers’ union, Education Minnesota. But some early education groups and experts are skeptical, which may not bode well for Dayton in the Legislature.

Dr. Rolnick has a way that’s more effective and less expensive. If the Dayton-Smith administration’s highest priority is to eliminate the achievement gap and help children, then they should be for plans that are effective and inexpensive. If their goal is to pay off another DFL special interest ally, then they should shut down the government again and admit to Minnesotans that their highest priority is to pay off Education Minnesota.

To find out more about who opposes the Dayton-Smith-EdMinn plan, check out this audio of Sen. Carla Nelson talking on the subject.

Here’s a partial transcript of Sen. Nelson’s statement:

It’s very frustrating for me as a legislator and I can only imagine for Minnesotans all across this state to know that, as of Thursday night, just 4 days out from adjournment, there was still no budget agreement on the individual targets for the individual conference areas. Quite frankly, there is no excuse for that. We should have had those targets early, in late April. So, first of all, it was frustrating getting those targets so late and then to add to add fat to the fire, so to speak, there was this agreement between Democrat Senate Majority Leader Bakk and the Republican-controlled House Speaker Daudt and them the Governor is suddenly threatening a veto of the Education Bill. I find that worrisome for a number of reasons. Minnesotans want bipartisanship. We got that here and then the Governor is concerned about one provision in the Education bill and, quite frankly, I understand his concern. He’s very concerned about high quality early learning, making sure kids are ready when they get to Kindergarten and are prepared to learn. I support that, too, but I believe the Governor’s initiative, which is universal pre-Kindergarten, is very premature at this time and is not what Minnesotans want or the school districts need. They just don’t want to build wings of Kindergarten wings onto their buildings for all-day Kindergarten. They are not wishing to now go out and build wings of pre-Kindergarten rooms. Those would be additional property taxes. Also, interestingly enough, early education advocates throughout the state, including myself, a person like Art Rolnick, a person who has pushed early childhood learning to the head of our state, is saying that the Governor’s plan to implement is wrong. We should be targeting resources to those kids most in need.

Let’s be clear about this. The Dayton-Smith-Thissen pre-K bill is a massive property tax increase waiting to happen. Schools throughout the state will have to build onto their existing schools to house all of the extra children. That’s inescapable.

Dayton, Smith and Thissen know this. They don’t care. Their allegiance isn’t with the students, as they’ve insisted. It isn’t with the school districts that’ve protested this throughout the state. The Minnesota School Board Association opposes the program, too. Check this out:

Some school districts indicated to the House Education Finance Committee that they don’t have space to add “basically an entire new grade in our public school system,” its chair, Rep. Jenifer Loon, an Eden Prairie Republican, told us.

There’s concern about facilities, equipment and transportation, she said. “There may be money the governor is proposing per pupil, but there’s no money there to help districts if they have to build classrooms,” for example. “That’s a huge cost that would largely fall on local property taxpayers.”

TRANSLATION: There’s money in this bill for Education Minnesota but there’s a major tax increase in the bill for parents and other taxpayers.

This video shows that Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is driving the DFL’s shutdown train:

Check out this partial transcript of Lt. Gov. Smith’s interview with WCCO’s Esme Murphy”

ESME MURPHY: Not all lieutenant governors are at the negotiating table. You, as I understand, have been. What has happened with the Majority Leader here, Sen. Bakk? I mean, obviously, a very fractured relationship earlier in the year and the previous spat. The Governor called Tom Bakk a “conniving backstabber who couldn’t be trusted.” What does he have to say about him now?
LT. GOV. SMITH: Well, you know, I think it is the…um…at the end of the session, there is always lots of personal interaction back and forth. I have to say, sitting at the table with Sen. Bakk and the Speaker the last 5 days, there was no animosity at all, very little personal animosity. It’s just a fundamental disagreement.

Lt. Gov. Smith later said that “it’s really just a matter of getting the Republicans to support it.”

That’s a telling interview in that it shows how much authority Tina Smith has. The rumors that she’s really been the one running the day-to-day operations of the office were virtually confirmed when it was established that she was at the table. Yvonne Prettner-Solon certainly wasn’t given that type of authority.

She was picked to push Dayton over the top in the 2010 DFL primary by bringing in Range votes. After that, she was treated like a potted plant. Tina Smith had more authority over legislative priorities as Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff than Prettner-Solon had as the lieutenant governor. Isn’t that exceptionally odd?

That isn’t the only oddity in Gov. Dayton’s office. Bob Hume is married to Carrie Lucking, Education Minnesota’s Policy Director. Hume joined “the Mark Dayton administration as a senior communications adviser.”

With Smith planning on replacing Dayton as governor some day, there’s no way she’ll fight Education Minnesota, especially when important players in the Dayton administration has strong ties to Education Minnesota.

Sunday night, Republicans started pushing back hard, saying that Gov. Dayton had 4 months to make his case for universal pre-K. They highlighted the fact that the DFL Senate defeated the Dayton-Smith-Education Minnesota bill a month ago.

Rest assured that Education Minnesota will push their legislators hard until and through the end of session. Smith saying that it’s really a matter of getting Republicans on board verifies the fact that Education Minnesota will push DFL legislators until they crack. It’s just a matter of time before Education Minnesota and Tina Smith get the DFL to crack. That will prove beyond a doubt that the DFL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Education Minnesota.

Republicans should stand strong against the coming PR battle. First, they should highlight the fact that they negotiated in good faith to reach a bipartisan budget agreement. Next, they should tell Gov. Dayton that they won’t budge on universal pre-K that requires school districts to build new school buildings, mandate class size and staff-to-student ratios, parent participation requirements and coordinate professional development with community-based early learning providers.

Demand that the DFL explain how they’ll pay for those things. Specifically, ask them if they’re planning on raising taxes to build new schools to meet the class size and teacher-to-student ration requirements or if it’s another unfunded mandate that the DFL will dump in school districts’ laps.

I’m betting that the DFL focused so intently on getting the legislation passed that they haven’t identified the hidden costs associated with universal pre-K.

If there’s a government shutdown, Tina Smith’s, Gov. Dayton’s, Paul Thissen’s and Education Minnesota’s fingerprints will be all over it…again.

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The Bible says that a house divided cannot stand. I’ve never known that to be wrong, which means the DFL is heading for a collapse. The DFL, or more specifically Tina Smith, has declared war on Tom Bakk and the state of Minnesota. Whenever there’s a press conference, Tina’s right there, acting as Dayton’s keeper. Here’s proof of the Metro DFL’s turning on Sen. Bakk:

Tina Smith clearly controls the Metro DFL. It isn’t surprising, then, that the Metro DFL has put its stake in the ground over half-day universal pre-K even though studies show it isn’t great policy. Customized pre-K plans are cheaper and they produce better results. Look at all of the requirements the Smith-Dayton-DFL plan imposes on program operators:

  1. the elimination of the school readiness program;
  2. requiring that 4-year-olds be in school longer than other students;
  3. limited facility resources;
  4. mandatory class size and staff-to-student ratios;
  5. parent participation requirements;
  6. requiring that early childhood teachers be paid comparable to K-12 teachers;
  7. coordinated professional development with community-based early learning providers;
  8. requiring school districts to recruit, contract and monitor early childhood programs for fiscal and program quality.

That reads like a union contract, not education legislation. How much money would be saved if “early childhood teachers” weren’t “paid comparable to K-12 teachers”? Why does the Smith-Dayton-Metro DFL legislation mandate “class size and staff-to-student ratios”?

What’s happening here is that Education Minnesota is pushing for a mandatory program that a) all parents have to use, b) requires teachers to be paid union scale wages and c) requires new schools to be built. That isn’t a program built for “the kids.” It’s a program that’s “for Education Minnesota.”

If I had $10 for each tweet I’ve seen this weekend that talks about this program being for the children, I’d be wealthy. Tina Smith, Paul Thissen and most Metro DFLers are machine politicians. Their agenda is focused on satisfying their special interest allies. They aren’t focused on solutions. They’re about doing whatever they need to do to gain and maintain power.

When Sen. Bakk pulled his stunt about Gov. Dayton’s pay raise for department commissioners, he started a civil war within the DFL. Tina Smith and the Metro DFL haven’t forgiven him for that. Gov. Dayton certainly hasn’t. He’d rather bury the hatchet and leave the handle sticking out than forgive Bakk.

During his first term, speculation spread throughout the Capitol that Dayton’s chief of staff ran things, not Gov. Dayton. Tina Smith was Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff.

Smith worked in marketing for General Mills, ran her own marketing firm, and served as a Vice President of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.[3] She served as Chief of Staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and as senior advisor and Transition co-chair for Dayton’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Dayton appointed Smith as chief of staff when he took office in 2011.

When Dayton’s running mate from 2010, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, announced she would not seek re-election, Dayton passed over better-known political officeholders, citing Smith’s work on shepherding the new Minnesota Vikings Stadium through the legislature, as well as her work on supporting the Destination Medical Center Project with the Mayo Clinic and the City of Rochester, MN.

Smith and Thissen were the people who talked Gov. Dayton out of accepting a deal that would’ve prevented the state government shutdown. Sixteen days later, Gov. Dayton signed the budget that Tina Smith and Rep. Thissen told him not to sign in June.

If there’s another shutdown, it’ll be because Smith and Thissen will have gotten to Gov. Dayton and given him terrible advice…again. In 2011, the Republican negotiators were different (Amy Koch and Kurt Zellers) but the DFL negotiators were the same (Gov. Dayton, Tina Smith, Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen). This time, Sen. Bakk negotiated a bipartisan deal with Speaker Kurt Daudt. Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith and Rep. Thissen are still pushing policies that appear to be driving us into another shutdown.

That isn’t surprising. It’s just disappointing.

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Gov. Dayton is refusing to listen to people’s concerns about universal pre-K. Here’s a list of concerns from the Minnesota School Board Association:

These concerns include 1) the elimination of the school readiness program; 2) requiring that 4-year-olds be in school longer than other students; 3) limited facility resources; 4) mandatory class size and staff-to-student ratios; 5) parent participation requirements; 6) requiring that early childhood teachers be paid comparable to K-12 teachers; 7) coordinated professional development with community-based early learning providers; and 8) requiring school districts to recruit, contract and monitor early childhood programs for fiscal and program quality.

Check out this study’s conclusion on universal pre-K:

My research examines two critical questions: the costs and benefits of these programs. The results are fairly clear – targeted programs could have better results at much lower cost.

What part of lower costs and better results does Gov. Dayton disagree with? During his press conference, he said that it was unacceptable to not fund his universal pre-K program at his levels.

That sounds like a dictator. That doesn’t sound like Gov. Dayton is interested in keeping the government open. If he wanted it to stay open, he wouldn’t have repeatedly said that the ball is in the legislature’s hands, that they had to send him bills he “could sign.” He repeatedly insisted that this wasn’t about him, which is insulting. Bakk and Daudt have done their work. If Gov. Dayton isn’t happy with their bipartisan agreement, that’s Gov. Dayton’s problem.

Apparently, he’s willing to shut Minnesota’s government down again. He apparently thinks that his is the only voice that matters. If the government is shut down again, it will be a) Dayton’s fault and b) a major hit against Gov. Dayton’s legacy. Acting like a spoiled brat doesn’t enhance a leader’s image.

I’m planning on spending a ton of time at this computer Saturday…if the negotiators and conference committees start churning out the budget bills. I’ve heard that several conference committees, including the Higher Education conference committee will meet this morning. Now that Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk have agreed on the budget targets, conference committees should be able to put bills together relatively quickly. The big unknown is whether Gov. Dayton will attempt to throw another monkey wrench into the Daudt-Bakk agreement.

Regardless, this figures to be a great weekend of politics…if you like hurry up and wait.

Most everyone with a pulse who’s watched Minnesota politics remembers the outright feud that erupted when Sen. Bakk sabotaged Gov. Dayton’s proposed pay raise for his commissioners, which I wrote about in this post. This is how icy things got between Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk:

Dayton said he will no longer negotiate with Bakk without witnesses.

Bakk declined Thursday afternoon to comment on Dayton’s rebuke but earlier in the day said he had spoken to the governor Wednesday about the options the Senate might have regarding the salary increases. Bakk, DFL-Cook, indicated one of the options he mentioned was delaying the pay hikes through June. “I laid this out,” Bakk said.

A month later, Sen. Bakk and Gov. Dayton essentially said that they’d kissed and made up. Most reporters took them at their word. I pretty much accepted it in the sense that they weren’t going to cause political mischief for each other. I didn’t think they’d ever forgive and forget.

Based on this week’s negotiations, the budget agreement that Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk worked out and Gov. Dayton’s attempt to sabotage their deal, I’m thinking that Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk didn’t kiss and make up. I think that they relish the thought of getting the better of each other. I think they’ve buried the hatchet…in a Garth Brooks sort of way:

Here’s the lyrics to the refrain of Brooks’ song:

We bury the hatchet
But leave the handle stickin’ out
We’re always diggin’ up things
We should forget about
When it comes to forgettin’
Baby, there ain’t no doubt
We bury the hatchet
But leave the handle sticking out

The question left unanswered is whether the DFL will stop squabbling long enough to prevent a government shutdown. Speaker Daudt has shown the ability to govern, which was a big question at the start of the session. The new question is whether Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk are capable of acting like adults long enough to govern.

Thus far, that’s far from a sure thing.

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Earlier tonight, I wrote this post that said a budget deal had been reached. This picture of Sen. Bakk and Speaker Daudt seemed to confirm that a deal had been reached:

Since then, though, Gov. Dayton has tried sabotaging the deal. Here’s the first tweet I saw announcing his opposition to the deal hammered out at his mansion:


Thankfully, some people are relatively sane:


Others are trying to pay off the special interests:

In an exclusive interview with the Pioneer Press Friday night, Gov. Mark Dayton said lawmakers reached their budget deal without checking with him and stood by his demand that they give early childhood through high school funding at least $550 million more over the next two years.

“If I’m not able to agree to anything that’s in there, including the E-12, I do not take responsibility any more than either of them for the fact that we couldn’t reach an agreement,” Dayton said as he closed out a long day of negotiations at the governor’s residence.

Now that’s a shocker. Gov. Dayton saying he isn’t taking “responsibility” for something. Minnesota, this is why Gov. Dayton was given the title of being the worst senator in the United States Senate. The House and Senate rejected Gov. Dayton’s universal pre-K proposal. Gov. Dayton’s response to the bipartisan rejection was to insist on an additional $550,000,000 for the K-12 formula:

The governor said he had few objections to the budget plan as lawmakers laid it out other than its level of education spending. “I won’t accept anything less than $550 (million),” for education, he said. “If they agree to that….I’m not aware of anything else that could stand in the way of the overall agreement.”

That means Gov. Dayton is willing to shut down the government because the legislature won’t increase K-12 funding that Gov. Dayton first proposed tonight. What type of lunatic would attempt to pull a stunt like that at the eleventh hour?

If there’s a shutdown, it’s because Gov. Dayton engineered it at the eleventh hour. That isn’t statesmanship.

That’s acting like a spoiled brat.

UPDATE: Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk agreed to spending targets. Follow this link to find out more about the agreement.

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It sounds like we’ll avoid a state government shutdown:

After five days of closed-door negotiations, Minnesota’s top lawmakers said Friday evening that they have come to an agreement on state budget targets, in a deal that keeps MinnesotaCare intact and, as of yet, does not include transportation and tax initiatives.

“We are as close as we can possibly be to having an agreement,” DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said as he addressed reporters alongside Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt. A spokesman for Gov. Mark Dayton said he is reviewing the offer.

Bakk said they will review the numbers Friday night before specifics are released. The Legislature is expected to suspend the rules to allow committees to work through the night, starting immediately. Daudt said his key priority was to get the work done so the legislative session would wrap before its Monday at midnight deadline. “It’s going to take some breakneck work over the next three days to get that done, but we feel like we’re there,” Daudt said.

Looking back at this week, not finishing on time simply wasn’t an option, especially with a $2,000,000,000 surplus. All sides would’ve lost, though I think the DFL would’ve had a tough time ‘winning’ the PR fight.

Still, there were signs early in the week that the DFL, especially Gov. Dayton, was planning on sabotaging the efforts in search of legacy accomplishments like universal pre-K and another tax increase. At this point, it looks like there’s a fight forming for transportation and taxes for next year’s session. That’s a fight Republicans should relish.

While Republicans haven’t won on their middle class tax cut initiative, they’ve won on the issue of raising the gas tax. That isn’t happening. I can’t imagine that there’d be much of an appetite for raising the gas tax next February for the DFL, especially when it’s just months before the general election. At that point, I can’t picture Sen. Bakk wanting to touch that hot potato, especially considering the fact that he’s hinted that we don’t really need a new transportation plan.

UPDATE:
Gov. Dayton appears to be attempting to blow up the deal with last-minute demands on K-12 Education funding and universal pre-K. Apparently, Gov. Dayton isn’t interested in doing the right thing.

This headline is positive news in terms of whether we’re heading for a shutdown:

Minnesota legislative leaders reach deal for $3 billion higher ed bill

Here are the details of the agreement:

Legislative negotiators settled on a spending increase for Minnesota’s public colleges and universities Thursday, one of their first agreements after days of private talks.

Minnesota’s next two-year budget will include $166 million in new higher education spending, bringing total state spending on the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to $3 billion. The increase is likely not enough new funding to continue a freeze on tuition in place since 2013. School leaders requested roughly more than $270 million in new taxpayer money to hold the line on tuition and for other initiatives.

Gov. Mark Dayton wanted $283 million in new college spending to freeze tuition and invest new money in the University of Minnesota Medical School.

That’s the first major spending bill that negotiators have reached agreement on. That’s a positive sign. In 2011, the legislature passed a number of bills that met with Gov. Dayton’s approval only to have him reject them without an agreement on raising taxes.

What people don’t remember is that Gov. Dayton could’ve signed a bunch of bills in 2011 that would’ve kept the government open. He chose to veto those bills in his attempt to raise Minnesotans’ taxes. That’s indisputable fact.

This is the final weekend of the regular session. Thus far, 2 budget bills have been signed. This is the first budget bill that negotiators have reached agreement on. That leaves 5 budget bills still to be negotiated and voted on. That’s a daunting task but it’s amazing what can get accomplished when all parties might get blamed.

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