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Dayton rejects bill to repay schools

ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton today vetoed a Republican plan to take money out of the state reserve fund to repay money owed Minnesota school districts.

Dayton called the plan an irresponsible "raid" on state reserves.

He also criticized a GOP Senate plan to take $100 million more from the reserves to deliver a business property tax reduction.

"That tactic is superficially appealing," Dayton said, but draining the reserves would cost more in the long run.

Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, sees it differently.

"I am extremely, extremely disappointed in the governor for vetoing this measure which would have helped our schools," Carlson said in a news release. "It's a shame that he has chosen to play politics over the best interests of our school children."

The release also said payback of the shift would have prevented many school districts from having to engage in short term borrowing.

Commissioner Jim Schowalter of Minnesota Management and Budget said the bill could have meant the state would be forced to take out loans.

"The cash position of the state is really perilous," Schowalter said, even without the school repayment plan.

"We have a good ways to go to dig ourselves out of the hole we inherited," Dayton added.

The state owes school districts around the state $2.4 billion after delaying payments for several years. In some cases, schools have been forced to borrow money when cash ran short.

Minnesota GOP Chairman Pat Shortridge said Democrats like Dayton are wrong to keep money in the bank.

"Only in DFL la-la land is paying back money borrowed from school districts 'irresponsible,'" Shortridge said. "In fact, it's the only responsible thing to do. If we leave hundreds of millions of dollars lying around in St Paul, the liberal Democrats in the DFL will do what they do best, spend it."