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Committee begins discussion of governor’s human services budget

House Photography file photo
House Photography file photo

The House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee began its consideration Wednesday of the budget proposed by Gov. Tim Walz for the Department of Human Services during the upcoming biennium.

That proposal is contained in HF2127, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth). The bill was laid over by the committee, which plans to continue its discussion Thursday.

However, members did vote to amend the bill to incorporate changes sought by the governor as part of his supplemental budget proposal released last week.

The amended bill would appropriate 10.16 billion in the 2022-23 biennium for the Department of Human Services, an increase from the $9.97 billion the governor initially proposed.

Dozens of policy provisions involving children and family services and community supports are also included.

The companion, SF2115, is sponsored by Sen. Melissa Wiklund (DFL-Bloomington) and awaits action by the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

Rep. Jordan Rasmusson (R-Fergus Falls) asked if the money Minnesota will receive from the most recent federal stimulus package could be used to fund some of the programs included in the bill and asked if the department has looked at leveraging funds to do that.

Schultz said that although Minnesota would receive $8 billion, a lot of that money would go directly to local and county units of government and some of the funds that could be used would go to grants, which don’t offer much leeway in how they can be spent.

“We are still learning about all of those funding opportunities for the state, especially in human services,” Schultz said.

Dave Greeman, the department’s budget director, said a portion of the $2.6 billion in federal recovery funds coming to the state could potentially go to services and programs administered by the department, but additional clarification is needed.

“At this point we don’t have a lot of information,” Greeman said. “It passed less than two weeks ago.”

Rasmusson said he understood a lot of the guidance was still being written, but asked the department to keep members informed on the subject.

“I think we do have an opportunity to leverage these dollars to meet some of our shared priorities,” he said.

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