As you remember from last week, the House and Senate have passed their budget bills. They have assigned members from each body to meet in conference committees to work out the differences between the bills. The Commission is following four of the budget conference committees:
1st is the Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill (SF 1937) which includes an increase in funding for the Commission. The increase is included in both the House and the Senate bills. Since this is the same, it is likely that it will be included in the final bill.
The Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill also is the bill that contains the budget for vocational rehabilitation services. Both the House and the Senate bills keep the funding for Voc Rehab the same as last year. However, vocational rehab needs a budget increase – there are currently waiting lists for services because they do not have enough funding. The House and Senate bills do not include this needed increase. Luckily the Governor supports the increase in funding for Voc Rehab, and we are sure he’ll push hard for it in the negotiations with the House and Senate.
The 2nd budget omnibus bill that we’re paying attention to is the Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill (SF 800) which includes the bill to modernize and increase funding for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD) and the Deaf Mentor Family Program. The funding is included in both the House and Senate bills.
3rd is the Education Omnibus Bill (HF 890) which includes two things that we’re following.
One is funding for the Deaf Adult Basic Education (ABE). Unfortunately, neither the House nor the Senate bill includes an increase for Deaf ABE. The Governor did not include this increase in his budget either. All of this means that Deaf ABE will probably not get a funding increase this year.
The other is funding for the Minnesota State Academies. The House and Senate bills both continue funding for the State Academies at the same level as this year. They do not increase the funding as the State Academies had requested. There is still hope that the State Academies could receive an increase in funds because the Governor supports the increase and he will be part of the negotiations before the bill is finalized. The Commission is also lobbying the legislators on the Conference Committee to support funds for the State Academies.
4th is the State Government Omnibus Bill (SF 605) which includes funding for the Central Accommodation Fund for state employees that the Commission got passed two years ago. The House bill continues to provide $200,000 a year for the Accommodation Fund. The Senate does not. Instead, the Senate only provides $100,000 a year and requires agencies to provide half of the funds themselves out of their agency’s budget. The Commission supports the House’s version with the full funding and no agency money required. Currently, the fund receives $200,000 per year, and it runs out each year. This is a definite sign that state employees need and use this fund. A cut will make the issue worse.
Watch for action alerts we are sending out for more information.