Minnesota lawmakers rushed to pass a $42 billion budget before Monday's midnight deadline as a special session threat loomed in the background.
The frantic finish led to shouts of "shameful" and "crooks" on the House floor from Democrats as House Speaker Kurt Daudt ignored the protests and pushed ahead with a vote on a jobs, economic development and energy bill. Meanwhile some Republicans hi-fived as the bill passed in time to send it to the governor. It was a contentious end to what has been, at times, a fractious session.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has vowed he would veto an education finance bill if it didn't include $150 million in extra funding and earmark $173 million for his top priority — universal pre-kindergarten. If that happened, he pledged he would call lawmakers back for a special session to get the job done. Nonetheless, lawmakers moved ahead with their own education plan without the pre-k dollars.
Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said such a move by the governor would be unfortunate and "totally unnecessary."
She added, "It's very risky for for the governor to veto the education bill. He stands alone, really, in his support of universal pre-k at this time."
Nelson said lawmakers were working up until the last minute to try and come up with a compromise education bill the governor could sign. Those efforts failed.
Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, said he's concerned that the budget passed doesn't provide more money for schools at a time when the state has a hefty surplus.
"In a situation where we have a significant state budget surplus, I think it's unconscionable that we are not doing more to help our schools," Schmit said.
While lawmakers got the basic budget work done in time, plenty of other issues got shoved off until the 2016 legislative session. Lawmakers failed to pass a comprehensive transportation funding plan to provide money for projects like U.S. 14. Senate DFLers and Dayton backed $11 billion plans with a 6.5 percent gas on tax at the wholesale level, which would result in at least a 16-cent per gallon increase. House Republicans put forward their own $7 billion plan that relied on existing revenue and borrowing. Instead of reaching a compromise, lawmakers agreed to put off the debate until next year.
Rep. Nels Pierson, R-Rochester, blamed Democrats for continue to cling to a gas tax in the face of public opposition.
"It's almost like they are tone deaf because nobody tells me they believe that we have to raise a gas tax to take care of highways, roads and bridges and transportation infrastructure," Pierson said.
Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, said she remained frustrated House Republicans weren't wiling to consider some sort of dedicated revenue for transportation. It's especially frustrating because it means no additional dollars will be headed to expand the deadly stretches of U.S. 14 between Rochester and New Ulm.
"There just isn't any more and that's really disappointing to me because we could have done something," Jensen said.
Also off the table for this session were tax cuts. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said the only way a tax cut plan would get passed is if House Republicans were willing to agree to an increase in dedicate gas tax revenue — an idea that proved to be a nonstarter with the GOP. House Republicans had put forward a plan with $2 billion in tax cuts for businesses, farmers, Social Security retirees and others.
"I think Minnesotans should be disappointed that the Democrats had to insist on a huge gas tax increase in the face of a $2 billion surplus," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.
As part of the budget deal, lawmakers saved $1 billion for possible tax cuts, transportation spending and other uses next session.