On Monday, the Minnesota Senate passed its comprehensive jobs and economic growth, energy, and commerce budget. The bill, which funds state agencies and encourages growth in a variety of sectors, passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
“In addition to funding our state agencies, this budget makes sure every Minnesotan has the opportunity to participate in our economy,” said Senator Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), chair of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. “This budget prioritizes workforce training and job growth, energy efficiency and reform, and consumer protections. It’s a good bill that makes sure Minnesotans can count on their government to meet their needs and grow our economy.”
More than $220 million of the budget goes toward jobs and economic growth, making a substantial investment in workforce development, skills training, employment disparities, and economic growth. The bill includes an additional $7 million over the previous budget for the Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which assists people with disabilities in overcoming barriers to accessing, maintaining, and returning to work. The committee also provided funds for law enforcement and the Department of Labor and Industry to establish a statewide protocol for identifying victims and perpetrators of labor trafficking. Working with representatives from labor and business communities, the budget provides the Department of Labor and Industry with an additional $2 million to investigate and process wage theft claims and explicitly prohibits wage theft in Minnesota by making it a criminal offense. The bill also clarifies state-set uniform employment standards across Minnesota, promoting intrastate commerce, cutting back on the patchwork of inconsistent workplace laws across the state, and eliminating conflicting labor regulations at the municipal level. In addition, the budget funds a grant program to provide employment services for people with mental illness and prioritizes public-private partnerships that work to remove barriers to employment through job training and preparation, particularly in historically-underserved communities.
The energy budget invests millions in provisions related to Minnesota’s energy, public utilities, and telecommunications, prioritizing efficiencies and reforms that will save ratepayers money. In addition to creating a solar grant program for schools, the budget includes reforms to community solar gardens, making the program more competitive and cutting energy bills for Minnesotans. The bill includes provisions lifting the renewable energy standard cap on hydropower and the moratorium on nuclear energy plant construction, as well as funding for a study to determine the best methods for energy storage in the state. The budget also creates a revolving loan fund for electric vehicle charging stations at businesses and government agencies, which will be repaid through user-paid charging station fees. Finally, additional funding for the Public Utilities Commission to manage increased rate case load and additional funding for the Commission on Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing is included in the legislation.
Finally, the $90.864 million commerce budget includes accountability measures such as health care fraud enforcement and a cap on the department’s unchecked authority to raise fees on banks and credit unions. Additionally, the budget continues the multi-year project to move the Department of Commerce’s regulatory fees and expenditures out of the state’s general fund and into a special revenue account.
“These are really important areas of our state’s economy. We are meeting the needs of Minnesotans – without imposing new taxes or fees. This is about the future of our state,” said Senator Dahms.