St. Paul, MN - Earlier today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the compromise State Government, Elections, and Veterans budget following a bipartisan agreement with the Minnesota Senate. The budget includes significant investments and policies for fully funding the state’s constitutional offices, protecting accessible elections, and providing resources for Minnesota’s veterans.
“As Minnesota bounces back from the COVID-19 pandemic, the compromise we reached through negotiations fully funds a responsive state government that’s able to meet this moment and assist in our recovery,” said Rep. Michael V. Nelson (DFL - Brooklyn Park), chair of the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee. “Crucially, we were able to protect the accessibility of our elections, and while important proposals were rejected by the Senate, this is ultimately a good bill that invests in state services that put the wellbeing of Minnesotans first.”
Within the bill’s funding of constitutional offices is a new investment in the office of the Minnesota Attorney General, which will be used to enforce the wage theft prevention measures passed by Democrats in 2019. The budget also funds grants to support tax filing assistance for low-income filers. Notably, DFLers successfully fought against the inclusion of Senate Republicans’ election-suppressing measures like voter ID, and instead preserved the integrity of our elections by formalizing the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots.
“Minnesota’s veterans have paid a service to all of us, and they deserve investments to ensure they and their families are cared for once their service ends,” said Rob Ecklund (DFL - International Falls), chair of the Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee. “Our budget addresses some long-term issues that have impacted the well-being of our veterans, including veteran homelessness, suicides, and encounters with the criminal justice system. We owe a great debt to those who served our country, and our budget strives to meet that responsibility.”
Suicide has claimed more than 100 Minnesota Veteran lives per year during the past five years. To honor the struggle faced by those who served our state and nation, and to shine a light on available resources, the bill establishes Veterans Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day to commemorate this cause. The legislation also increases funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs, investing in new veterans homes in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston, and addresses veteran homelessness by establishing the Veterans Safe Housing Initiative to help veterans facing housing insecurity.
“Minnesotans expect and deserve an effective state government that works to meet their needs,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Our state government budget funds critically-important services, invests in wage theft enforcement efforts, and works to end veteran homelessness and suicide.”
While funding for the popular and effective Market Bucks program was blocked in the Agriculture budget, DFLers successfully fought for the program’s funding in this bill, allowing low-income Minnesotans access to healthy and affordable farmers’ market produce. The budget also creates the Legislative Commission on Cybersecurity, recognizes the contributions of Minnesotans of Indian descent with the establishment of “India Day” on August 15, and would recognize Daylight Saving Time as the standard of time all year - provided federal legislation permits this change.
“Voting rights are under assault by Republican politicians, corporations, the rich, and well-connected in response to workers, families, and historically disenfranchised people who want an economy that helps them get ahead,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “House Democrats negotiated a state government budget bill that does not include voter ID requirements sought by the Republican Senate because our democracy doesn’t work when fewer people have a voice in their government.”
The legislation can be found here, and a spreadsheet of the investments in the budget is available here. Video of the House Floor session will be available on the House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.