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Omnibus judiciary bill advances, amended to add pay increases for judges

A proverbial gavel has been pounded after a favorable committee ruling to increase proposed judicial branch funding.

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee approved HF1030, the omnibus judiciary finance bill, as amended, by a 10-7 party-line vote Wednesday and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee. The companion, SF970, sponsored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

The House plan calls for $1.08 billion in funding for the 2022-23 biennium, which would be a $49 million increase from the current biennium.

[MORE: View the initial spreadsheet]

When discussed by the committee Tuesday, the bill included a 3% pay increase for court system employees, but not for judges.

An amendment successfully offered Wednesday by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), the bill sponsor, added salary increases for the state’s judges.

She said extra money made available to the committee’s budget target by the House Ways and Means Committee made the change possible.

Before committee approval, Becker-Finn shared her thoughts about the bill and the committee’s work.

“When I was named chair, I told folks that I was going to be making my decisions and keeping equity and justice at the center of everything that we do and the decisions that we make,” she said. “And I think that’s really been borne out in what has been included in this bill.”

Republicans voted against the bill.

“There’s some good things in the bill, and of course there’s some bad things in the bill from our perspective,” said Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover).

Scott praised Becker-Finn for including language that would reinstate the Legislative Commission on Data Practices, which expired in June 2019. But she said the price tag on the bill was too high, and that led her to vote against it.

The ultimate price tag on any omnibus budget bill this year is not settled, due to an as-yet unknown amount of federal money that the state will likely receive, Becker-Finn said.

In her amendment, Becker-Finn also included language that would spend money from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund or any other federal funds received by the state under the American Rescue Plan Act instead of money appropriated by the bill, with the resulting cost savings returned to the General Fund.

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