ST. PAUL — The 2015 legislative session began with a bipartisan embrace of Greater Minnesota issues. It ended in disappointment for advocates of rural Minnesota policies.
But DFL House leaders on Tuesday doubled down on the Greater Minnesota agenda — this year in a partisan way. They unveiled a “Greater Minnesota for All” proposal for the 2016 session that will convene on March 8.
The agenda focuses on job creation, transportation, and property tax relief.
“All any Minnesotan wants — wherever they live in the state — is a fair shot for themselves and their community. The fact is we have proven ways of creating more jobs and opportunity from border to border.
“But last year in their rush to provide special perks to big Twin Cities and multinational corporations, the Republicans turned their back on Greater Minnesota,” House DFL Leader Paul Thissen said on Tuesday.
The plan received strong support from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.
“After a disappointing session last year, we are glad the House DFL is committed to making 2016 a better year for Greater Minnesota. Their plan advances several important issues that the CGMC has been fighting for, including Local Government Aid, workforce housing, job skills training, transportation and broadband expansion,” said CGMC President and Le Sueur Mayor Robert Broeder
Thissen said the 2015 session was a “monumental flop for Greater Minnesota” after the House Republican majority failed to tackle important issues for greater Minnesota such as transportation, broadband infrastructure, and rural property tax relief. He said the “Greater Minnesota for All” agenda is focused on completing the unfinished business of the 2015 session.
Here are some details of the plan for Greater Minnesota:
• $100 million for broadband.
• A comprehensive transportation package. “We are committed to making sure that greater Minnesota gets its fair share by expanding on our DFL innovation to direct dollars to Corridors of Commerce as well as small cities across Greater Minnesota,” the proposal said.
• Workforce housing for rural Minnesota businesses. Provide a tax credit for workforce housing in high needs rural communities so that businesses can attract the high quality workers they need to prosper and grow.
• Increased focus on career and technical education. A doubling of school reimbursement for technical and career education programs from 35 percent reimbursement to 70 percent reimbursement of costs.
• Rural job training: Provide job certification rewards to a school for each career and technical class that leads to a certificate in specified job classes such as EMT, certified nursing aide, etc.
• Increase Local Government Aid (LGA) to 2002 levels.
• Direct property tax relief for seniors, providing a Homestead Credit and Renters Credit Property Tax for Senior Citizens that would allow both married senior citizen individuals to claim a $5,600 exemption for purposes of determining household income for the HCR and renters refund programs.
• Create a respite care program that would make it easier for families to provide care for loved ones with dementia.