The State Departments and Veterans Omnibus Appropriation Bill was passed off the Senate Floor this week and makes its next stop in Conference Committee.
The State Departments and Veterans Omnibus Budget Bill includes the Senate’s budget recommendations to fund various state agencies, boards, and commissions. The division target provides $38 million in new spending. $16 million in savings is due to reduced aid payments to the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) for the Minneapolis Employees Retirement Association (MERF) merger. The bill includes the Governor’s recommendation for a 1.8% operating increase to all state agencies to cover staff compensation costs. For all state agencies, the cost of the 1.8% increase is approximately $25 million; about $8 million is carried in this bill, excluding the Veterans Affairs budget, which is provided an additional 5% across-the-board increase.
The Department of Administration section of the bill includes $2 million to streamline the state and federal certification of veteran-, minority-, and woman-owned targeted small businesses. The change will conform the state’s certification process to the Code of Federal Relations for purposes of procurement preferences. Additional funds are provided to pay for an Accommodation Fund to encourage state agencies to hire persons with disabilities ($1 million), increase grants for public television and radio ($2 million), provide funding to local governments for training on data practices ($200,000), and to further develop and implement the Olmstead Plan ($288,000).
Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) is provided $4.8 million over the base to maintain and enhance enterprise systems and services. The Department of Revenue is provided $11.6 million over the base to maintain and enhance Minnesota’s Tax System and prevent cigarette smuggling. Improving tobacco enforcement through additional anti-smuggling personnel within Revenue is part of the Governor’s budget recommendations. The proposal creates statewide licenses for retailers of tobacco products and establishes penalties and fines for retailer noncompliance.
The bill includes the Racing Commission’s request to alter the licensing fee structure to multi-year licenses and to have the ability to increase Class C license fees by removing the current $100 maximum for certain licensees, e.g. certain horse track vendors. The Gambling Control Board requested an increase in fees on charitable gambling organizations for increased regulatory oversight capacity. This bill does not increase the fees, but provides a General Fund appropriation in place of the fee increase of $790,000.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is provided a 5% operating increase to assist in maintaining current staffing levels. Veterans Affairs is also provided greater authority to distribute grant dollars from the Support Our Troops Fund to organizations that improve the lives of veterans and their families. Military Affairs is allowed to transfer $10 million from their Enlistment Incentives Fund to their Maintenance & Training Facilities Fund. $3 million is appropriated to reimburse local governments for the additional costs associated with public safety workers temporarily leaving to fulfill military commitments. (S.F. 888)