A lot of good programs and limited funds to support them led to tough decisions crafting and approving the House’s omnibus jobs and economic development finance bill Thursday night.
The House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division voted 10-4, along party lines, to approve the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), the division chair.
Amendments approved by the committee cover a range of technical fixes and clarifications, as well as funding adjustments to some of the appropriations outlined earlier this week.
Projected General Fund spending would increase an additional $5.73 million, for a total of $349.57 million; and Workforce Development Fund spending would increase an additional $3 million, for a total of $71.41 million over the 2020-21 biennium.
Changes would realign the bill’s equity grant appropriations with Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed budget and provide:
“You’ve got a job in front of you with the Senate … So, don’t stop working. Don’t stop working on it,” Mahoney warned supporters of the amendments adopted Thursday evening.
“(A) number of assumptions in the bill … cause concern for the rollout and implementation of this proposal, in addition to just the sheer magnitude of the cost,” he said.
Other Republicans expressed concern about the potential cost burden on small-business owners, the lack of an exemption option for small businesses, and the general “one-size-fits-all” approach, adding that employers are already making changes to accommodate the needs of their employees in order to remain competitive.
Mahoney contended the change would be a draw for prospective employees, and that it is an important strategy in addressing statewide worker shortages and supporting families.
An amendment offered by Rep. Shane Mekeland (R-Clear Lake) was also voted down. It attempted to cut earned sick and safe time provisions, outlined in HF11, sponsored by Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul).
The combined changes of paid family leave and earned sick and safe time are “a big double whammy for employers,” said Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar). “This is a lot to ask.”
Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have added a reporting mechanism to the bill, but received significantly more support.
Mahoney opposed the amendment because the cost was unclear, but he expressed interest in the concept and requested a fiscal note so the idea can be more fully considered at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing next week.
“I have stretched our budget as far as a rubber band and it’s starting to get pretty close to popping,” Mahoney said. “And I don’t want our fiscal analyst having a heart attack.”
Rep. Hodan Hassan (DFL-Mpls) said she’s concerned additional reporting requirements would overburden nonprofits that are engaged in “front line” work.