Jobs, energy, and commerce budget prioritizes workforce development, cracks down on wage theft

An agreement on the jobs and economic growth, energy, and commerce state budget has been reached by legislative leaders, providing funding for state agencies, cracking down on wage theft, and encouraging economic growth in a variety of sectors. The final agreement is expected to be passed by the legislature later this week.

“At the beginning of the session, we set out to craft a budget that ensures every Minnesotan has the opportunity to participate in our economy,” said Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), chair of the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee. “About 60 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have jobs that do not currently exist. This budget agreement makes sure every Minnesotan is equipped to participate in our economy – for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

An additional $10 million over the current budget is allocated to the area of jobs and economic growth, making a substantial investment in workforce development, skills training, and employment disparities. 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. Working with representatives from labor and business communities, the budget provides the Department of Labor and Industry with an additional $3 million to investigate and process wage theft claims and explicitly prohibits wage theft in Minnesota by making it a criminal offense.

Highlighting a commitment to increasing access to workforce development and job training for all Minnesotans, 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. Additionally, the Youth Skills Training Program, which connects classroom learning with on-the-job experience for high school students, receives funding in the budget. Finally, to maximize the public funding available, the budget includes stronger reporting requirements and accountability measures for recipients of workforce development grants. 

The budget agreement also funds state agencies that regulate Minnesota’s energy, public utilities, and telecommunications industries. While funding for a study to determine the best methods of energy storage in the state is included in the budget agreement, the agreement includes relatively few policy changes.

“Our energy budget appropriately funds our state agencies and prioritizes energy savings. Our agreement also holds firm against the House and governor’s radical energy policy proposals that would impose new regulatory burdens and drive costs way up for ratepayers,” said Senator David Osmek (R-Mound), chair of the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee.

Finally, the $51.6 million commerce budget ensures Minnesota businesses have a reliable partner with their state government. In addition to funding the state’s commerce department, the budget continues the popular ‘Prepare and Prosper’ program, which helps low income Minnesotans move into the banking system. 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 is also continued.

“Commerce is an important part of the state’s budget, touching everything from banking to insurance to securities. Our agreement meets the needs of Minnesotans and makes sure the state’s commerce department is equipped to act as a consumer resource for all,” said Senator Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), chair of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.