Last week, the House acted on the remainder of omnibus bills that will fund state government for the next two years. Below is more detail about some of the larger budget bills that were passed.
Job Growth and Energy Affordability
On Thursday, the House passed the Job Growth and Energy Affordability Omnibus bill which works to lower energy costs for consumers, increase good-paying jobs in our state and cut wasteful spending.
Provisions in the bill include improvements to vocational training for student wanting to enter into the trades, providing grants to businesses for job training in Greater Minnesota, and initiatives to help veterans entering back into the civilian workforce after their service.
Additionally, the initiative I spearheaded to end the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program is in the bill. As recommended by the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor, the bill transforms the Renewable Development Fund (RDF) and moves it from Xcel Energy’s management to a state account to increase transparency and help our state better invest in cleaner, more cost-effective and innovative alternative energy development and production.
The Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program is an excessively expensive program and heavily subsidized by Xcel Energy ratepayers, and making changes to the program and the RDF is estimated to save ratepayers $23 million over the next three years. We can do better than 13 times the market rate for solar energy, which was the cost in 2016.
State Government Finance
The House also passed the State Government Finance bill on Thursday which focuses on reining in state government spending, implementing meaningful reforms to improve transparency and accountability, and funding important veterans initiatives. In all, the bill is 8.7 percent below base funding over the previous biennium.
Highlights in the bill include stopping welfare for politicians by ending the campaign subsidy program, capping political appointee severance pay to highly-compensated employees, reforming the troubled Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, and capping the growth of full-time employees in the executive branch.
In all, this commonsense legislation protects funding for important areas of state government including veterans programs, health and human services, and public safety while reducing spending and increasing government accountability to Minnesota citizens and taxpayers.
Another bill passed last week was the bipartisan Public Safety Finance Omnibus bill. This legislation focuses first on keeping Minnesotans safe and giving law enforcement the tools they need. The bill allocates new money for local law enforcement training costs especially in deescalation techniques and dealing with the mentally ill; increases penalties for those illegally protesting on freeways, highways, and airports; and provides additional funding for sex trafficking, domestic violence and terrorist recruitment prevention.
Several initiatives I spearheaded were also included in the bill that aim to protect victims of violence. One provision makes changes to how Harassment Restraining Orders (HROs) are handled, allowing any peace officer to find and serve a person with an order. Another provision adds felony strangulation of a family or household member to the list of what must be considered in custody cases, helping protect children from being placed in the care of a violent parent or guardian.
What’s more, I also advanced legislation in the bill that aims to reduce our prison population by recommending community chemical dependency treatment options for technical parole violations by non-violent drug offenders. Last year, technical violations accounted for 64% of our state’s prison admissions. You can read more in a recent Star Tribune story about my bill here.
Now that the House and Senate have acted on their respective budget bills, the next step will be to negotiate in conference committees to come up with and pass final versions of these bills. Legislators will also negotiate with Governor Dayton who will need to sign the bills into law.
I will keep you updated as we progress into budget negotiations.
If you need assistance on an issue pertaining to state government, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.