A major focal point for DFL legislators this session was protecting workers from wage theft, expanding access to paid leave, and giving all Minnesotans an opportunity to flourish in the state’s economy. In many ways, the omnibus budget bill took steps in the right direction but did fall short in several important areas. The bill that will ultimately make it to Governor Walz’s desk is much improved in comparison to what the Senate Republicans had originally put together. The final agreement had a net general fund impact of $10 million over the base budget. (SF 2)
Recognizing the extreme inequities in Minnesota, the Legislature in 2016 made historic investments in communities of color to help ensure all Minnesotans find success in the state’s growing economy. This is something that most legislators have supported, regardless of party or legislative body.
The ultimate product is much better than the bill Senate Republicans originally authored. In the Senate bill, Republicans originally appropriated $15.746 million for equity, but the conference committee agreement contained over $20 million for equity programming. The additional resources that were agreed to will have a great impact on employment and economic growth opportunities for populations across Minnesota. (SF 2)
$3 million was made available to the Commissioner of Agriculture for payments to Minnesota dairy producers who have milk herds of no more than 750 cows for buy-in to the federal Dairy Margin Coverage Program. The federal Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program was passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC provides dairy producers insurance when the price of milk falls below a dollar amount opted for by the producer. The US Department of Agriculture has reported that payments have been triggered in January, February, and March of this year. (SF 2)
Airport Infrastructure Renewal Grant Program
New legislation would create an Airport Infrastructure Renewal (AIR) Grant Program. Counties or cities must provide up to 50% of the funding of the redevelopment or construction of new facilities to meet the economic development needs of manufacturing, technology, and warehousing and distribution, or research and development. The eligible cities or counties need to be outside the metropolitan area and can only receive a maximum amount of $250,000 of the $1 million appropriation in FY 2020 in a two-year budget cycle. (SF 2)
Businesses taking advantage of workers by not treating them fairly or withholding pay will face stiffer penalties as a result of legislation passed this session. The problem is widespread and significant, the Department of Labor and Industry estimates 39,000 Minnesotans are impacted by wage theft per year, resulting in $11.9 million in unpaid wages.
The agreed upon language creates a definition of wage theft in the criminal code. Additionally, it expands the enforcement powers of the Minnesota Attorney General’s office to include wage theft. It is hoped that the enhanced penalties relative to wage theft will deter bad actors from withholding pay that their employees earned. (SF 2)
PROVISIONS THAT DID NOT PASS
Paid family and medical leave
Both Governor Walz and DFLers made access to paid family and medical leave a priority for all Minnesotans regardless of income or geographic location. Having the time to heal or care for loved ones is paramount to Minnesotans’ overall success. While programs were passed by the House, Senate Republicans did not hold a hearing on these proposals. As a result, it was predictable that these provisions were eliminated during budget negotiations with Senate Republicans. (SF 1060)
A provision included in the Senate 2019 Omnibus Jobs, Energy, and Commerce Bill would have superseded local units of government that seek to establish their own minimum wage and benefit requirements. This proposal was aimed at cities that have already enacted proposals to increase minimum wage rates and increase benefits available to employees working within their city.
Business interests have been pushing the proposal over the past few sessions. They argue that requirements make business less competitive, and tracking employees work can often be difficult. Local units of government who have passed ordinances argue they are nearest to the people they represent and are in the best position to determine what is right for their communities. (SF 2)