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State government budget bill repasses House

House Photography file photo

The House on Tuesday repassed a $973.5 million spending bill that funds most executive branch agencies, the Legislature and constitutional offices, sending it to Gov. Mark Dayton, who said he would veto it.

Passed 75-56 shortly after the Senate passed it on a 34-33 party-line roll call vote, the omnibus state government finance bill, HF691/SF605*, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), would reduce the overall size of state government and puts a cap on full-time employees while increasing benefits to military and veterans affairs. Some of the largest spending reductions focus on the Department of Revenue and Minnesota Management and Budget.

The conference committee for the omnibus state government finance bill finalized its report late Monday night, making it available for action on the floor.

“This bill has gotten even better from going through the conference committee process,” Anderson said.

DFLers disagreed, however, citing staff and program reductions, along with what they said is a lack of funding for government technology and infrastructure.

“This basically hamstrings our government,” Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said.

WATCH Full video of House Floor debate and repassage of the bill 

Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul) said he had concerns about reductions to the government’s information technology agency, MN.IT, and the “high risk” of cybersecurity threats. “This bill frankly fails to protect Minnesotans’ personal information,” he said, adding later, “This is a huge failure.”

Republicans said the bill would streamline state government and reduce inefficiencies. They emphasized helping veterans and putting taxpayers first.

“At the end of the day, folks, I’m with the taxpayers,” Anderson said. “I’m with you.”

Last time the conference committee met, agency heads said the cuts were too drastic — and would result in hundreds of state employee layoffs and reductions in service — while Anderson and Kiffmeyer contend their proposal would streamline government and protect taxpayers.

Some spending reductions in the committee’s report include:

  • an $11.16 million reduction in MMB’s operating expenses;
  • canceling the designated $7.16 million for the James Metzen Mighty Ducks Program back into the General Fund;
  • eliminating the public subsidy program for campaigns, a savings of $2.67 million in the next two biennia; and
  • cutting the Department of Human Rights by $416,000.

The report contains $10 million for a new veterans’ home and would spend $700,000 on the Veterans’ Journey Home program, along with increasing military affairs spending by $6 million for tuition reimbursement and retention bonuses. Although the Senate initially included spending $1 million for the new Duluth veterans’ cemetery, the conference agreement doesn’t include it.

Also included is a one-time $1.5 million expenditure for the Minnesota Historical Society’s digital preservation project and an ongoing $800,000 to establish a legislative budget office.

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