State and Local Government, Veterans

The State Government and Elections Omnibus Bill spends a total of just over $1 billion in 2018-2019. The joint target provides a $65 million increase over the base. The Senate had a $5 million cut target and the House had a $55 million cut target. There were a number of problems with this bill, including a lack of funding for cybersecurity and limited spending for our military and veterans. (SF 3)

SEGIP Opt-Out Savings

MMB has concerns with this proposal because it automatically books $4 million in savings by allowing executive public employees to opt-out of SEGIP coverage. If less than the estimated number of employees opt-out, agencies will nevertheless be forced to reduce their budgets based on employees that were anticipated to opt-out of coverage.

Arbitrary Agency Cuts

The Governor avoided cuts to state agency operating budgets, including the Attorney General, the State Auditor, the Secretary of State, Revenue, and MMB.

State Auditor Enterprise Fund Repeal

The State Auditor Enterprise Fund repeal is included in the bill, which is a fund used by the Auditor as a payroll account to charge local governments for audits. A corresponding direct appropriation ($14 million) is provided to the Auditor for these audits.

While the Auditor is no longer required to pay the court expenses for counties in the ongoing audit lawsuit, the Auditor must report to the legislature on any pending civil litigation, explain the grounds for the suit, and disclose litigation expenses incurred and projected.

Legislative Budget Office Created

This provision creates a new Legislative Budget Office under the LCC to coordinate fiscal notes for the legislature. The LCC must hire a director who serves a six-year term and may not be removed except for cause. The fiscal note showed a biennial cost of $1.6 million but no appropriation is included in this bill.

Rulemaking Restrictions

Restrictive rulemaking policies based on Sen. Newman bills have been removed from the bill.

Restricts Severance Pay for Highly Paid Employees

Prohibits highly compensated public employees from receiving severance pay if they are a commissioner, deputy commissioner, or assistant commissioner, have been employed for less than six months or who voluntarily leave employment, or are unclassified public officials.  This is in response to commissioner severance packages paid to former Commissioners Katie Clark Sieben, Mark Phillips, and Sheila Wright, who received over $80,000 in severance agreements.

Omnibus Liquor Bill Amendment

This year’s bill included an extension of bar hours for the 2018 Super Bowl and issued special liquor licenses for municipalities. The Senate and House were unable to compromise on language and the bill died in conference committee at the end of Session.

The bill was added as an amendment in the House and Senate to the State Government finance omnibus during the Special Session.

Department Appropriations

Administration: $14 million Governor recommendation – $5 million increase in this bill

Proposals to eliminate the LEAN Program, Plant Management, the SMART Program, and the Accommodation Account were avoided.

Minnesota Management and Budget: $37 million Governor recommendation – $4 million increase in this bill. Enterprise Security and Risk Management System (payroll and disaster preparedness functions) ($18

MN.IT: $26 million Governor recommendation –  $0 allocated for cyber security

The bill requires MN.IT Services to report to the legislature on the status of data optimization, including data center consolidation. This is not the time for Minnesota to ignore efforts to prevent cybersecurity attacks. This budget puts Minnesotans’ personal and financial information at risk.

Secretary of State: $7 million in FY 18 for election equipment grants, no operating reduction

The Governor recommended $7 million in election equipment grants to the Secretary of State to provide funding to counties to purchase new voting machines. The Senate proposal only provides $1.3 million in one-time money, but limits the amount the grant may be spent on for tabulating equipment and assistive voting technology to 50% of the total cost. If the grants are spent on electronic rosters, the grant may be 75% of the total cost. The Minnesota Association of County Officers has indicated this investment is insufficient and prioritizes e-rosters over more critical technology needs.

Military and Veterans’ Affairs: $8.524 million for DMA, $3.149 million for DVA

The Governor’s budget recommendation was a $11.714 million increase over base for the Department of Military Affairs and a $5.265 million increase over base for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The vetoed bill provided $10 million for veterans’ homes and $6 million for enlistment incentives. Many democrats were upset that the Legislature failed to provide increased access to veterans’ home in Greater Minnesota when we started session with a $1.6 billion budget surplus.

Tuition Reimbursement

The special session bill includes $8.524 million over the biennium for tuition reimbursement and enlistment incentives for the DMA. The DMA also receives an additional $41,000 in FY 18 and $83,000 in FY 19 for operating costs.

Duluth Veterans’ Cemetery

The DVA received an additional $481,000 in FY 18 and $968,000 in FY 19 for operating costs. $500,000 in each FY of the biennium is allocated for the new Duluth veterans’ cemetery as well. There is no new money for taking care of or building new veterans’ homes.

Veterans Defense Project

$500,000 for the biennium is allocated for the Veterans Defense Project, an organization dedicated to helping veterans working through Minnesota’s court systems.

State and Local Government, Veterans Bills that Did Not Become Law

VETOED: State Government Budget

The Republican state government finance bill was vetoed by Governor Dayton and included a $43 million cut to state services. It would have meant drastic reductions to government services that would have resulted in layoffs, longer wait times, and higher long-term costs. The proposal cut most agencies by over 10% despite additional requests for investments in cybersecurity, tax services, and auditing capacity. With the state benefiting from a $1.6 billion surplus, the state budget should support the services that make government effective and accountable to taxpayers, not arbitrary cuts to agency budgets.

DFL senators have heard from a number of constituents who are frustrated with the waiting time for tax refunds this year. Under the Republican budget, that would have gotten worse. The Department of Revenue estimates the staff and funding cuts in this bill would have led to longer tax-return wait times and fewer auditing services, and cost the state up to $35 million in uncollected revenue.

The bill invested no funding for cybersecurity while the state’s IT experts have expressed a need for over $26 million to protect Minnesotans’ personal and financial information. This is not the time for Minnesota to be pulling back on efforts to halt cybersecurity attacks.

Minnesota is currently rated 35 out of 50 states in the number of public employees per capita, further proving the state’s workforce is already lean and these cuts are unnecessary. (S.F. 605)

Paid Family Leave and Engineers Contract

Last year, Governor Dayton made a commitment to public employees to provide basic employee protections and begin a broader discussion on the need for paid family leave for all Minnesotans. Through a directive to the Commissioner of Management and Budget, Dayton approved six weeks of paid family leave for state employees that began in November of last year. The proposal is projected to have a modest cost of $2 million over the next year, which state agencies will be able to absorb into their existing budgets. While the cost to the state is small, it provides a critical benefit to new parents and their children.

The method by which Governor Dayton provided paid and medical leave while in recess last year required the Legislature to approve the benefit. The GOP-led Senate and House did not affirm paid leave, so employees that are currently on paid maternity leave must immediately come back to work or be forced to take unpaid leave.

The Senate DFL Caucus supports legislative efforts to extend basic paid and medical leave to all Minnesotans, regardless of where they are employed. The DFL repeatedly advocated for legislation to approve paid leave, but their bill was never given a hearing by Republicans in any committee. New parents deserve to spend a few weeks with their newborns without fear of financial hardship and the Senate DFL will continue to advocate for this basic benefit for all Minnesotans. (S.F. 673)

Vikings Stadium Authority Reform

A bill to alter the structure of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is responsible for the operations of U.S. Bank Stadium, was unable to gain passage in the Legislature.

The bill would have allowed the Office of the Legislative Auditor to conduct examinations of the authority’s finances, budgets, and operations, and also allows the auditor to examine the authority’s use of stadium space by members, staff, family, friends, charitable organizations, and vendors. The auditor began an investigation into the use of the suites after a November article in the Star Tribune and determined the authority violated a core ethical principle by allowing family and friends to use the suite for non-marketing purposes.

The bill would have restricted the use of stadium suites only to legitimate business purposes, which include participating in a marketing event arranged by the stadium’s vendor, conducting oversight of stadium operations, and making the stadium available to nonprofit charitable organizations for the people served by the organization. Use of the stadium for non-business purposes would have been prohibited for commission members, staff, and their family and friends, although the Authority has already altered its policy after the use of stadium suites came to light last year. (H.F. 778)

Subcommittee on Employee Relations

Collective bargaining agreements that fail to obtain approval by the LCC Subcommittee on Employee Relations will no longer go into effect 30 days after consideration. The result of this language is that collective bargaining agreements that occur during the interim can be postponed until the next legislative session adjourns, which effectively kills a proposed union contract. 

MAPE testified in opposition to the collective bargaining restriction, stating that it will delay contracts, complicate implementation, and negatively affect 125,000 public employees. AFSCME also is strongly opposed to this change because it will impede the ability for contracts to go into effect during the interim and jeopardize their ratification by the legislature.

James Metzen Mighty Ducks Ice Center Grants

The $7 million in unspent FY17 funding for ice arena coolant upgrades is clawed back and deposited in the General Fund.

Senate DFL Media