MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he will not apologize for comments he made about Republicans after lawmakers did not pass his top priority: statewide pre-kindergarten programs.

Dayton plans to veto the $17 billion education bill later this week and call a special session of the legislature to pass a new version instead.

Republican leaders are outraged that Dayton not only said they are trading the welfare of children for corporate tax breaks, but that Republicans “hate public schools.”

House Speaker Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, demanded an apology at a post-session news conference Wednesday.

“I think that is absolutely outrageous,” Daudt said. “He absolutely should apologize for that comment. He needs to stand up and be a leader.”

The author of the $17 billion education measure — Rep. Jennifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie — wore a button Wednesday with the words “Stand Up For Public Schools.”

Loon says her children attend public high school.

“I’m not going to shortchange a system where my own children, the thing most precious to me, goes to school,” Loon said.

But Dayton is not backing down — he’s doubling down. He says he won’t apologize, and he says it is Republicans who should say they’re sorry for hurting schoolchildren.

“I looked it up in the dictionary. It says ‘hate’ means to intensely dislike,” Dayton said. “That’s just for some of them as far as I know. If they want to prove me wrong, they should vote for universal Pre-K. Then I’ll apologize.”

Dayton says he hopes to call lawmakers back to the State Capitol for a special session in early June.

Pat Kessler