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Conference committee reaches agreement on funding jobs, economic development programs

(House Photography file photos)
(House Photography file photos)

Several of the main players at Friday’s jobs, workforce, and economic development finance and policy conference committee made opening remarks praising the agreement reached.

“I think that we have some things that are going to be presented today that we think will benefit all of Minnesota,” said Senate President Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls).

“The bill … contains multiple valuable investments in multiple valuable programs and it endorses helpful policy changes that will better enable DEED to advance its mission to empower the growth of the Minnesota economy for everyone,” said Matt Varilek, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Rep. Hodan Hassan (DFL-Mpls) ended her remarks praising the agreement with a simple, “Let’s get this done.”

And the committee did just that Friday, approving the conference committee report on HF5205/SF5289* in just under 45 minutes.

Conferees adopted several documents: a fiscal spreadsheet, policy comparison summary, and two amendments.

Combined, they constitute the report that’ll be sent back to both bodies for consideration.

What’s in the agreement?

The agreement comes four days after the conference committee’s first meeting on Monday, where members adopted 10 identical or very similar policy items between the House and Senate versions.

Conference Committee on S.F. 5289 - Omnibus Jobs and Economic Development appropriations - 05/17/24 (Video courtesy Minnesota Senate Media Services)

Nine more were adopted Friday, mostly technical, but also a House-only provision to establish a Center for Nursing Equity and Excellence at the University of Minnesota with onetime funding of $250,000 in fiscal year 2025.

Employment and training programs

In the intervening days, agreements were also reached on the financial differences, which were wide in the case of appropriations from the Workforce Development Fund. The agreement is $12.41 million, a bit above the halfway point between the previous positions of $17 million by the House and the $4.88 million by the Senate.

The agreement means five employment and training program items would each get $1 million in one-time funds from the Workforce Development Fund in fiscal year 2025: North Minneapolis Change Starts with Community; African Immigrants Community Services; WomenVenture; the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce; and the city of Brooklyn Park to develop a biotech innovation district.

The $1 million for Brooklyn Park was a reduction of the $2 million asked for in the House bill. Two other House-only funding requests were not included in the agreement: $2 million for workforce training by the Pfund Foundation and $1 million for Lakeview Methodist Health Care.

Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar (R-Fredenberg Township), the only Republican conferee, praised the money that would go to Greater Minnesota. “Empowering the Minnesota economy has to include Greater Minnesota and the entire state.”

She specifically called out the $500,000 proposed for the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency and $100,000 that would go to the Lake County Ambulance Service Training Program.

DEED appropriations

The agreement calls for spending $5.8 million from the General Fund in fiscal year 2025 to fund business and community development grants managed by the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

But that would be boosted by a one-time $3 million transfer from the Job Creation Fund and several reallocations and cancelations of previously funded items, including $5 million previously allocated to the city of Bloomington to secure the 2027 World Expo. Serbia won the bid.

The largest General Fund appropriations that would go to the department include:

  • $3 million for PROMISE Act grants;
  • $2.5 million for Launch Minnesota;
  • $1 million for the New American Development Center; and
  • $1 million for the Entrepreneur Fund.

A half-dozen remaining business and community development grant programs, detailed in the agreement spreadsheet, would also be funded, ranging from $50,000 to the Block Builders Foundation to $500,000 for the Asian Economic Development Association.

Explore Minnesota Tourism would get a $2 million one-time fiscal year 2025 appropriation to support the hosting of the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games.

A House-only appropriation of $1 million to support hosting the 2026 World Junior Hockey Championship is not in the agreement.

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