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Recrafted jobs, economic development bill heads to governor

By Lee Ann Schutz
Rep. Pat Garofalo presents the conference committee report on the omnibus jobs and energy bill Monday morning on the House Floor. Photo by Andrew VonBank

The state’s economic development and commerce departments fared financially better in the second go-around of the omnibus job growth and energy affordability finance bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), the conference committee report on HF1620/ SF1456* was passed by the House 87-43 Monday morning, about three hours after it was passed 46-20 by the Senate. It now moves to the governor for his consideration.

“I think it is geographically balanced; fiscally prudent; it creates jobs,” Garofalo said.

He termed one provision in the bill as a “big win” for Xcel ratepayers. “Over the next six or seven years you are going to see reduced emissions and you are going to see $700 million in ratepayer savings.”

Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed an earlier measure, saying the $356.3 million in appropriations was not enough to finance the programs. This bill comes in approximately $23.1 million higher at $373.8 million for the 2018-19 biennium.

Among the appropriations proposed over the upcoming biennium are:

  • $194.3 million for the Department of Employment and Economic Development;
  • $107.6 million for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency;
  • $46.6 million for the Department of Commerce; and
  • $15 million for the Public Utilities Commission.

More than $14 million of new money would be dedicated to the state’s workforce development efforts, including $3 million to the Pathways to Prosperity Competitive Grant Program. that offers grants to train the state’s workforce for employment in high-demand fields.

Several proposals supported by the governor are included in this version including $500,000 each year for wage theft prevention. Garofalo said this will provide for additional enforcement against “a small number of bad actors out there who are ripping people off. … When people put in an honest day’s work they deserve an honest day’s wages.”

The bill also calls for a workforce housing development program to award grants or deferred loans to eligible projects.

DFLers called the bill long on funding for economic development, but short on money for workforce training.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) said the bill was better than the previous proposal, but remains “totally underfunded.” He plans to recommend that the governor veto the measure for these reasons and because the bill did not address Internet privacy. “This could have been a better bill.”

Several policy provisions the governor objected to in the first jobs bill are now absent; remaining, however, is a measure that would prohibit local governments from enacting plastic, paper or reusable bag bans. DFLers called out this provision as an example of the state standing in the way of local authority.

They also lamented the time crunch between when the report was made public at 6:10 a.m. and when they were called on to cast their vote after the House went into session at 8 a.m.

“We are in the part of the session known as the ‘Shove it down your throat if we can’t make a deal on bills phase,’” said House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park). She said it is a stretch to say the agreement represents a compromise with the administration. “To pretend that everything in this bill was agreed to by the Dayton administration is just not true.”   

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