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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dear Neighbors,

Last week, we received word that two-year, state employee contracts that include raises will remain in effect under a decision by the Walz administration. I am shocked by the Walz administration’s decision to give state employees a raise while the state and nation face record unemployment.

I discussed this issue in a recent update detailing how these state contracts were negotiated and approved by the state and the unions at a time when Minnesota had a billion-dollar budget surplus, unemployment was near record lows, and no one had ever even heard of COVID-19.

Minnesota Management and Budget estimates that the increased costs of all collective bargaining agreements and plans will be 4.8% in this biennium and 8.17% in the next biennium. This will cost Minnesota taxpayers more than $1 billion by 2023- making Minnesota’s looming budget crisis significantly worse. These costs would be ongoing.

With our new economic reality, it’s clear that the state cannot afford such substantial pay increases. Also, it’s unfair to ask the 650,000 Minnesotans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own to help shoulder the burden of the extra costs of these contracts. In fact, there are 12 unemployed Minnesotans for every state employee who would receive a raise this July.

What’s disturbing is that while the Democrat Majority in the House unsurprisingly approved the contracts, the Republican Majority in the Senate ratified the contracts—but removed the scheduled raises.

The Walz administration now, via a memo from Minnesota Management and Budget, has determined that by taking any action on the contracts, the Senate in effect approved them even though legislative intent is clear that the Senate did not want the scheduled raises to go into effect.

From what has been explained publicly, the administration is saying since both the House and Senate passed language saying contracts were “ratified” even though it was different language in completely different bills, that the contracts were in effect ratified as originally negotiated by the unions.

The process has always been that ratification requires the passage of identical language in bill form which this wasn’t.

This appears to be a case of the governor intentionally flouting the will of the legislature.

So far, we have not seen the memo, so I cannot comment further on the legal reasoning the administration is using to make this determination.

Stay tuned for updates on this in the weeks ahead as we get more clarity on the administration’s interpretation of the statute.

Have a good day,

Glenn

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