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Road to special session has been more like a roller coaster

ST. PAUL -- Last week began with such hope at the Capitol.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt on Monday agreed to give schools a $525 million increase. DFL House and Senate members were happy with the increase. Dayton and Daudt said very little could stand in the way of a quick special session to complete the state's budget and avoid a government shutdown.

But all good things come to an end.

By Tuesday, lawmakers and the governor's administration still were trying to work out final details and had not set a date for a special session. On Wednesday, Dayton said he would not call a special session unless lawmakers agreed to change an obscure provision about the duties of the state auditor. On Thursday, despite releasing an agreement on a bonding bill, other details were left unsettled, dashing plans for a Saturday special session.

Hope for a coming compromise returned Friday.


Dayton said that he and the House were "very near final agreements on almost everything necessary to convene a special session." But the agreements left few cheering.

"One sign of a true compromise is that no one likes it," the governor said.

The compromise budget plan includes a per pupil spending bump for public schools of $350 million over the next two years, $96 million in new spending for early childhood and family programs and a $46 million increase to programs that help struggling students. It also keeps some of the environmental provisions Republicans pushed and Dayton and DFLers opposed but gave DFLers some satisfaction on other green government provisions.

But House members and the governor are still at a standoff over the auditor language.

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