The State Government Omnibus Bill passed out of its first committee stop this week and spends a total of $935 million in 2022-2023. This is a $23 million reduction over the base and $58 million less than the Governor’s recommendation of $994 million. The bill only provides an operating increase to the Senate budget and either ignores the governor’s proposed operating increases or cuts the operating budgets of other state agencies.
The Departments of Revenue, Minnesota Management and Budget, Minnesota IT Services, and Administration receive a cut to their operating budgets; most notable is a $16.5 million biennial cut to Revenue. $10 million in annual state aid payments to the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) for the dissolution of the Minneapolis Employee Retirement Fund (MERF) are discontinued, to be disproportionally subsidized by Minneapolis employers and taxpayers.
The bill reduces MMB’s operating budget by $2.7 million in the next biennium and reduces the agency’s contingency of executive budget officers (EBOs) by six for a savings of $1.1 million. MMB also has concerns with policy language in the bill requiring the Legislature to approve federal COVID-19 funds while there is already a process in place for legislative review through the Legislative Advisory Commission.
The management of historic sites is inexplicably transferred from the Historical Society to the State Historic Preservation Office under the Department of Admin, which is opposed by both agencies. Admin employees do not have the expertise to manage these sites or host the large volume of visitors to these locations, which include Split Rock Lighthouse and Fort Snelling.
Minnesota has a strong reputation of providing access to the polls and promoting the freedom to vote, with the state once again leading the nation in voter turnout last year. We should be building on this success by making it more convenient to vote, engaging more voters in the democratic process, and providing sufficient resources to our local election officials.
Instead, Senate Republicans have refused to debunk election conspiracy theories and misinformation to the detriment of our democracy and public confidence in our elections. Republicans across the country have spread the big lie that our elections were not fair, which led to the January 6insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Compounding these false claims, Senate Republicans are doubling down on proposals in this omnibus to make it more difficult to vote by creating a system of second-class ballots that are less likely to be counted. The effect of this bill would disenfranchise thousands of Minnesotans, waste taxpayer dollars, and take away local control.
The Republican voter suppression proposal would create a second-class system of provisional and challenged voter ballots to weaponize the ability for anyone to challenge the eligibility of a voter and keep their vote from counting. This language will effectively abolish same day voter registration as we know it. The omnibus also restricts early voting locations by prohibiting mobile polling locations and making it less convenient to vote before election day. The bill exposes private voter data by making challenged voter information and election judge party affiliation data publicly available. Finally, the omnibus would preempt local control and prohibit cities from choosing whether to implement ranked choice voting and would repeal RCV for the cities that have already adopted it.
The Republican Senate State Government Omnibus bill would jeopardize the efficient delivery of state services that Minnesotans have come to expect, would make it more difficult to vote, and would create inefficiencies in state government for no discernable justification. (SF 1831)