The Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee spent the session attempting to build on the success that has occurred since the recession while aiding communities who have had barriers to this success. After the first budget bill earned Governor Dayton’s veto, legislators started to negotiate with the Dayton Administration. In vetoing the bill, the Governor was able to secure a better bill for Minnesotans. He did this by securing an additional $5 million for broadband, $7 million for the Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) program, additional programming for adults looking to better themselves through training, and families with children looking to access stable housing relative. In total, Governor Dayton negotiated an additional $20 million in general fund money compared to the bill he vetoed. (SF 1456)
In 2016, it was reported that the already significant disparities gap was growing. Alarmed by the new data, the Legislature took action to enact $35 million in funding for equity programs across the state. To fund their priorities, the Republican-led Legislature cut this equity program by $7 million and phased out direct appropriations for competitive grant programs in the FY 2020 – 21 budget. The details of the competitive grant program will be worked out next session.
Youth Skills Training Program
There has been a focus over the last decade on students getting a 4-year college degree, which has resulted in a shortage of workers with vocational training. This proposal aimed to expose high school students to vocational employment opportunities in the students’ community or area.
The commissioner would be responsible for establishing the program in collaboration with other stakeholders. Once the program was established, a local partnership could apply for grant money that could be used for the coordination and recruiting of the local partnerships program.
Wage Theft Prevention
The Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) estimates that more than 39,000 workers suffer from wage theft in Minnesota each year, resulting in $11.9 million dollars of wages that are owed but not paid to Minnesota workers. There are approximately 2.9 million workers in the state and the Division of Labor Standards currently has five full-time employees to enforce Minnesota’s labor laws.
The House and Senate did not adopt the policy recommendations advocated for by Governor Dayton to address the wage theft issue. However, they did appropriate $1 million in the biennium to help DLI further address wage theft that is occurring across the state.
Minnesota Investment Fund and Job Creation Fund
Governor Dayton recommended restoring cuts to the Minnesotan investment fund and job creation fund that were enacted last biennium at the urging of House Republicans. Language included in the conference committee report appropriated resources to support an expansion of Digi-Key in Thief River Falls. Digi-Key expects to invest $250 – $325 million in its operation in addition to hiring 1,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
Both funds help drive economic development in Minnesota by attracting and retaining Minnesota businesses. Governor Dayton compromised with legislative leaders by making modest increases to these funds.
The purpose of the broadband grant program is to provide financial incentives to increase access to broadband in unserved and underserved areas of Minnesota.
From attracting and retaining businesses and talent to improving student success, investment in broadband is critical to establishing a level playing field for all Minnesotans, particularly those living in greater Minnesota.
The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband made recommendations to the state Legislature over the last several years. Among many of their suggested changes, the task force recommended $100 million in ongoing funding for the Border-to-Border broadband grant program. This session Governor Dayton proposed $60 million for broadband. Governor Dayton and legislators settled on $20 million for this program.
Pillsbury Grocery Store
An appropriation ($2 million) will be used for a “North Market” grocery store and wellness center focused on offering healthy food, increasing health care access, and providing job creation and economic opportunities in one place for children and families.
Helmets to Hardhats
In response to the high unemployment rate among veterans, North America’s Trades Unions created Helmets to Hardhats. This nonprofit’s aim is to help veterans find job opportunities in the construction industry. The training is offered at no cost to veterans.
Grant money ($400,000) was included in the budget for Helmets to Hardhats. The funding must be used to recruit and assist military veterans’ transition into apprenticeship programs regulated by the Department of Labor and Industry.
Homework Starts with Home
It has been reported that approximately 10,000 Minnesota children struggle with homelessness. Through the Homework Starts with Home program, resources would provide rental assistance to Minnesota families with stable housing for their children. Research has found that housing stability for children is correlated with educational outcomes.
The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (HFA) found through a pilot program that attendance increased and chronic absenteeism declined with these students at a higher rate than other students experiencing homelessness. Additionally, they reported that 90% of the families served with rental assistance pilot by the HFA were stably housed at the end of two years. The approved bill appropriated $2 million for this program.
This proposal was in reaction to ordinances that were established in Minneapolis and St. Paul that required qualifying workers to have access to paid leave benefits. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Business Partnership were supportive of the proposal because they worry that individual cities across the state would establish their own benefit policies which would result in differences across the state.
In response, social and labor organizations were in opposition to the proposal, and argued the local elected officials are closer to their constituents and the proposal may have long term consequences if high powered groups can come to the Legislature and circumvent local units of government. Additionally, many of the families who do not have access to leave benefits need them the most to take care of a sick child or parent. For them it is a choice between putting food on the table and taking care of a loved one.
The Republican majorities in the House and Senate included several provisions in a stand-alone preemption bill in the special session in an attempt to entice DFL support. No DFL senators voted for the bill and the Governor has stated he will veto it. (HF 600)
Jobs and Economic Development Bills that Did Not Become Law
VETOED: Jobs and Economic Growth Budget
The Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee spent the session attempting to build on the success that has occurred since the recession while aiding communities who have faced barriers to this success. To do this, the Republican-led Senate settled on $10 million in new money for this budget area while the House reserved $0 in new investment, and Governor Dayton budgeted over $100 million. A large portion of the Governor’s budget total – $60 million – was dedicated for Border-to-Border broadband grants. This is a popular program throughout the state, but it is especially significant for rural Minnesota. The bill appropriated $15 million for broadband.
Beyond shortchanging broadband, the bill was missing several provisions important to Governor Dayton and the state of Minnesota. This includes shortchanging the Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) program by $7 million. VRS increases competitive, integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. The money is needed as a result of changes made at the federal level. Without these resources VRS would be forced to stop taking Minnesotans with the most severe disabilities and all new clients (5,800) would be placed on an indefinite waiting list. (SF 1937)