Senator Eichorn, colleagues, pass budget that prioritizes workforce development, energy savings, reforms

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.

“The Senate’s jobs, economic growth, energy, and commerce budget is a bipartisan bill that fairly represents the views from all sectors of Minnesota’s diverse economy,” said Senator Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids), vice-chair of the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee. “From our union workers in Greater Minnesota to our small businesses in the cities, this legislation is about creating opportunities for all families across Minnesota. At its core, this bill is about empowering Minnesotans and preparing Minnesota for our workforce demands today as well as the demands that our state will face in the future.”

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.

Highlighting the Senate’s 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 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 caseloads 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.