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Greater Minnesota Budget Bills to be Heard in House Committee

ST. PAUL, MN – On the heels of a report showing six straight months of job gains, DFLers in the Minnesota House of Representatives have introduced legislation to build on Minnesota’s economic momentum in Greater Minnesota. Many of the new initiatives to expand economic opportunity in Greater Minnesota for individuals, families, farmers and businesses will come up for a vote in committee tomorrow.

“Minnesota is doing pretty good overall,” said Rep. John Persell (DFL – Bemidji). “We have a balanced budget with a projected surplus. But we still have work to do when it comes to Greater Minnesota. That’s what this package of bills is all about.”

The budget passed by the legislature in 2013 made significant investments in Greater Minnesota priorities, including more funding for rural schools, the first nursing home funding increase in more than four years, and direct property tax relief that has led to the first drop in Minnesota property taxes in more than a decade.

“I was happy to see some significant investments for Greater Minnesota in our budget last year,” said Rep. Roger Erickson (DFL – Baudette). “But with a project budget surplus of over $1 billion, we know that now is the time to invest in the families, businesses, and farmers that make our communities great.”

The proposals by House DFL representatives aim to build on that momentum to continue making progress for Greater Minnesota families and businesses:

RURAL PROPERTY TAX RELIEF

This package of property tax proposals builds on last year’s efforts through an additional $40 million in targeted property tax relief to Minnesota homeowners, renters and family farmers:

Family Farmers: Although property taxes are expected decrease for homeowners this year, farmers will see property tax increases, driven by a 24% increase in market value. This bill provides $15 million in immediate property tax relief to more than 75,000 family farms. An average family farmer in Minnesota will see a total of $490 in property tax relief.

Homeowners: This bill provides a one-time increase to further boost Homestead Credit Refunds in 2014. Each and every homeowner receiving a refund will see an additional 3% increase, providing $12.1 million in property tax relief to 500,000 Minnesota homeowners.

Renters: This bill provides a one-time increase for all Renters’ Credit Refunds paid in 2014. Each and every renter receiving a refund will see a 6% increase, providing an additional $12.5 million in property tax relief to 350,000 Minnesota renters.

Counties: Last session the Legislature boosted state aid to counties by $40 million a year so counties could invest in infrastructure and services while relieving property tax pressure. Due to changes in population and land values, some counties did not fare well. This initiative would provide one-time aid to those 11 counties.

BROADBAND EXPANSION

House DFLers are calling for a significant investment in broadband as part of the House Jobs and Economic Development budget bill.

Legislation would expand fiber-optic broadband infrastructure in underserved regions of the state and help continue mapping deployment of broadband to measure Minnesota’s progress towards meeting broadband goals and where further investments are needed. Rep. Erickson, who authored the bill, hopes the mapping will help the state make wiser investments.

“More accurate mapping of the broadband levels across the state will help us invest state dollars in the most efficient way possible,” said Erickson.

GREATER MINNESOTA JOBS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

After passing a robust jobs and economic development bill last year that is helping to spur private investment and job growth throughout Minnesota, lawmakers are authoring several bills that will target about $10 million in economic development resources to support rural job growth and the business sectors critical to rural economies. The legislation would:

Grow greater Minnesota businesses by expanding an existing small business revolving loan fund that offer loans and gap financing for small businesses in need of capital.

Support small and mid-sized manufacturers with an innovation voucher pilot program to allow small and midsized companies to purchase expertise and services from universities, research institutions, and consulting firms like Enterprise Minnesota.

Assist businesses in developing high skilled workers through increased funding for the Jobs Skills Partnership, small business grants and increased funding for Small Business Development Centers.

SUPPORT FOR FARMERS AND FAMILIES

Modeled after a successful pilot project, this bill will appropriate $1.5 million to distribute “surplus” agriculture crops to food shelves across the state. Producers and growers will donate surplus crops to Second Harvest to distribute to food shelves and then be reimbursed for the cost of harvesting and packaging.

Many of these proposals will be heard in House committees this week. Tomorrow, several of the economic development bills will be heard in the House Jobs and Economic Development Committee.

 

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