The overall budget deal announced May 19 by legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Walz proposed a $125 million increase in spending over current budget levels to fund Minnesota courts and public safety agencies in the 2020-21 biennium.
But because the judiciary and public safety conference committee did not produce a report before the Legislature adjourned May 20, how that money was to be spent was unknown – until Wednesday.
That’s when the language and spreadsheet of the compromise agreement on the omnibus public safety and criminal justice reform finance bill were released. The bottom line for 2020-21 biennium: spending would be $2.48 billion. The figure was announced at a joint meeting of the House judiciary and public safety divisions.
The compromise language, expected to be voted on during an upcoming special session, details how the state will fund corrections, public safety programs and courts across the state.
What’s in the compromise agreement?
Before the regular session ended, and there was a conference committee working to resolve House and Senate differences in the omnibus legislation, the House position had more than 50 policy proposals.
[MORE – View a listing of House proposals]
The compromise agreement settles those differences, but not through the usual process of public conference committee meetings. Rather, they were negotiated out of sight from the public in about a day and a half following the May 20 adjournment of the regular session.
The agreement has a 2.5 percent salary increase for judges, which is lower than the House proposal that Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges get a 3 percent salary increase, and District Court judges get a 4 percent raise.
The Department of Human Rights would get $10.04 million for the biennium, down from the $13.11 million House proposal. The reduction means the department won’t be able to open regional offices as it had wanted to do in Duluth, Bemidji, Worthington and Rochester.
Appropriations for hiring additional corrections officers in prisons were in both the House and Senate positions, and the agreement funds those at $7.6 million for the biennium, specifying 67 new hires in 2020 and 78 new hires in 2021.
Public defenders would get salary increases, funded by the full House proposal of $11.93 million for the biennium. However, proposed funding to hire new public defenders and support staff was cut in half, with the agreement spending $6 million over the biennium instead of the $12.77 million proposed by the House.
House provisions retained in the agreement include:
House provisions omitted in the agreement include:
The conference committee on the omnibus public safety and criminal justice reform finance bill voted May 14 not to adopt two House-backed gun-control measures into the conference committee report. They are not in the agreement.