Review of the line-item vetoes for jobs bill

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty trimmed a little more than $1.8 million from a new law that funds jobs, housing and cultural heritage programs for the next biennium — and also designates ice hockey as the official state sport.

The law, sponsored by Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) and Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), authorizes $260.1 million (after line-item vetoes) in net General Fund spending.

Major appropriations, reflecting cuts from earlier projected funding bases, include:

• $115.9 million to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (a 4 percent cut);

• $86.8 million to the Housing Finance Agency (a 3.5 percent cut);

• $46 million to the Minnesota Historical Society (a 6 percent cut);

• $20.2 million to Explore Minnesota Tourism (a 9 percent cut);

• $17.2 million for the Minnesota State Arts Board (a 16.6 percent cut); and

• $4 million for public broadcasting (a 3 percent increase).

The law prevents deeper cuts to DEED programs by temporarily increasing a fee paid by employers into the state’s workforce development fund. The fee hike would raise $15.5 million over the next biennium.

Pawlenty line-item vetoed six appropriations. The largest, a $1.2 million grant to the Minnesota Film and TV Board, was intended to nearly double the amount of money available to the “Snowbate” film production incentive. In his veto letter, the governor said that while incentivizing the film industry creates short-term jobs in the state, funding should focus on long-term job growth.

Other line item-vetoes include:

• a $280,000 grant to Minnesota Public Radio to help with its conversion to a digital broadcast signal;

• $200,000 for the Indigenous Earthkeepers environmental and cultural youth education program;

• $100,000 for the Southeast Asian Collaborative;

• $70,000 to the Legislative Coordinating Commission to study economic development issues; and

• $50,000 to the Department of Administration for a workers memorial on the Capitol grounds.

Pawlenty also vetoed an earlier version of the legislation because it included a provision that would have forgiven $33 million of a loan St. Paul owes the state on the Xcel Energy Center. The loan forgiveness would have allowed the city to move forward on a proposed new indoor ice arena across the street from the Xcel.

While St. Paul didn’t get its new ice rink, hockey fans can still take heart, as the law establishes ice hockey as the official state sport.

A number of other policy provisions are also included in the law. Among them, public employers will be required to purchase employee equipment and apparel made in the United States. The provision takes effect Jan. 1, 2010, or upon expiration of contracts entered into before June 1, 2009, whichever is later.

A “Minnesota Green Enterprise Assistance” provision in the law directs DEED and the Commerce Department to collaborate on a program to “advise, promote, market and coordinate” state help for environmentally focused enterprises. The objective is to use existing state resources to expedite the delivery of grants, licenses, permits and other authorizations for green economy projects.

Increased accountability requirements for DEED are also in the law, which directs the agency to develop a set of measures to evaluate the effectiveness of its workforce development programs. Annual reports are required to the Legislature.

The law establishes an 18-member bipartisan Economic Development Strategy Working Group to create an overall economic growth strategy for the state. Made up of six senators, six House members and six public members, the group will work under the umbrella of the Legislative Coordinating Commission and report back to the Legislature by Feb. 15, 2010.

Other policy changes include:

• splitting the Board of Barber and Cosmetologist Examiners into two separate organizations;

• strengthening enforcement of prevailing wage requirements for state contracts; and

• allowing Delta Airlines flight attendants taking unpaid furloughs as part of their contracts to collect unemployment benefits.

Appropriations in the bill take effect July 1, 2009. Policy provisions mostly take effect either May 17, 2009, or Aug. 1, 2009.

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