It’s been clear for weeks now that Minnesota’s Democrat governor Mark Dayton wants a government shutdown. He’s been openly pining for it, not bothering to mask his naked partisan desire to blame Republicans going into next year’s election season.
The regular legislative session concluded late Monday night. As the deadline for the session approached, Governor Dayton repeatedly moved the goal posts on education funding, demanding ever more spending and full funding of universal preschool for four-year-olds.
The preschool piece has been a “priority” for Dayton despite widespread bipartisan opposition to the idea. Officials in the school district in which I live, which already deals with challenging fiscal issues, have told me they wouldn’t know where to put the new students if preschool were mandated by the state. But practical issues like that don’t concern Dayton, who sees universal preschool as a chance to both define a personal legacy in his second term and stick a thumb in the eye of House Republicans.
Tuesday, Dayton indicated he would make good on a threat to veto an education bill passed by the legislature because it does not include universal preschool. His veto will necessitate a special session during a time when capitol renovations leave the legislature with nowhere to meet. But Dayton says the inevitable special session was triggered by Republicans for not including his “priority.”
There’s only one problem with that narrative. Dayton’s fellow Democrats control the State Senate, and passed the same bill he’s about to veto. The Senate’s passage has been spun by some as a reaction to pressure to end the regular session on time. However, the reality is that many Democrats stand as skeptical of universal preschool as most Republicans.
The drama indicates that Dayton thinks voters will ignore the facts and buy his manufactured narrative of partisan intransigence. Even liberal allies in local media remain skeptical of that strategy’s chances.