- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015
Higher ed budget heads to Dayton; could mean tuition hikes

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s Legislature has passed a bill funding public universities that school officials say will result in tuition increases.

The budget passed in the House and Senate Sunday bumps up higher education funding by $166 million. That sum falls short of what the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system requested to extend tuition freezes at all their schools.

Several lawmakers say it’s wrong to give more money to the state college system than to the University of Minnesota. Some two-year schools in the state college system may see a tuition cut.

The budget also earmarks $30 million for the University of Minnesota’s medical school.

It’s the first bill lawmakers have sent to Gov. Mark Dayton as they rush to pass a budget before Monday’s midnight deadline.

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Dayton not yet on board with brewing buffer strip plan

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton isn’t ready to back a compromise plan requiring buffer zones between farmland and Minnesota waterways.

Lawmakers, agriculture groups and the governor have worked for months to find agreement on one of Dayton’s top priorities this year to protect water from runoff. Some farmers balked at Dayton’s original proposal to require 50-foot buffers along all waterways.

A tentative agreement reached early Sunday morning would require 50-foot buffers along public rivers and lakes and a smaller setback along private ditches. Farmers would have between five and seven years to comply.

Dayton says that’s too long. He says the plan needs to be improved to get his support.

Current law requires 16 1/2-foot buffer strips along all waterways but it’s spottily enforced.

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Dayton says special session would shower focus on pre-k plan

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A combative Gov. Mark Dayton isn’t backing away from a veto threat over an education bill that leaves out his preschool expansion plan, saying lawmakers should prepare for a special session.

Dayton drove home his point Sunday after meeting with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders about his demand they add money for half-day preschool for 4-year-olds statewide.

The regular session must end Monday and the Capitol renovation is encroaching on meeting space a day later. Dayton says lawmakers can meet outside in lawn chairs and under a tent if need be.

Dayton focused blame on majority House Republicans, although Senate Democrats are party to a deal that omitted the pre-kindergarten money. The Democratic governor says a special session would spotlight the choice between young learners and tax cuts given that lawmakers want to leave $1 billion to consider breaks next year.

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As lawmakers battle budget deadline, impact becomes clearer

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - As Minnesota lawmakers scrambled Sunday to piece together the state’s next budget before a fast-approaching deadline, the impact of the roughly $42 billion package on the states’ residents started coming into focus, and the prospect of an overtime session for education funding hung in the air.

Farmers affected by a bird flu outbreak could tap into low-interest loans to replace their flocks, college students would have more access to state grants but likely face tuition increases, and fines for repeat texting-while-driving offenders will rise.

The regular session must end Monday night, but an impasse over education funding raised the specter of a special session. With Capitol renovations forcing lawmakers out of their building Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton suggested the Legislature convene under a tent in lawn chairs if need be. He was threatening to take down a bill with $400 million in new money for schools because it omits money for his signature initiative that would have the state pay for preschool for all 4-year-olds.

“If they walk away, it’s going to be vetoed. I can’t say it strongly enough. If they don’t believe me, it’s not my fault,” Dayton said, urging legislators to tap into a $1 billion pot being left aside for possible tax relief next year to fund the program.

After meeting with the Democratic governor earlier Sunday afternoon, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt faulted a lack of progress on the governor’s prized preschool initiative on Dayton himself for not building support in the Legislature. He reiterated the House will proceed with its own education plans. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk didn’t answer questions after his own meeting with Dayton.

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