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Greater Minnesota & Communities of Color left behind in House GOP Jobs Bill
SAINT PAUL, MINN. – House Republicans passed an underwhelming Jobs & Economic Development supplemental budget bill tonight that missed a big opportunity to create jobs and economic security for ordinary Minnesotans across the state. Despite a $900 million surplus, House Republicans did not make a meaningful investment in broadband infrastructure for Greater Minnesota and even cut successful job creation initiatives that have created thousands of good-paying jobs in recent years. And despite a clear crisis facing communities of color, House Republicans did very little to address racial economic disparities. House DFL Leader Paul Thissen said the bill is a continuation of misplaced priorities from Republicans that have put corporate special interests ahead of Minnesotans.
“With a $900 million surplus and stable budget, we could be making historic strides to create economic opportunity for Minnesotans across the state, especially those who are being squeezed in an economy that isn’t working for everyone,” said House DFL Leader Paul Thissen. “We need to level the playing field for Minnesotans. That means investing in broadband for Minnesota families and businesses who are struggling without high speed Internet and it means investing in real solutions to eliminate our racial economic disparities. These simply aren’t the priorities of House Republicans.”
The lack of meaningful investment for broadband infrastructure is perhaps the biggest disappointment in the bill. The need is clear. As of February 2015, it was estimated that over 244,000 households do not have access to broadband – almost all of those households in Greater Minnesota.
Governor Dayton’s Broadband Task Force estimates a $200 million need this year in broadband investments to put Minnesota on the path to border-to-border access. Governor Dayton has proposed $100 million and Senate Democrats have proposed $85 million this year, a meaningful investment to connect Minnesotans in rural Minnesota with broadband access. However, the House Republican Jobs Bill puts just $15 million into the broadband grant program for the current budget cycle, a fraction of the need in Greater Minnesota.
“Broadband is the great equalizer for Greater Minnesota and Republicans are falling short,” said Rep. Paul Marquart, House Deputy Minority Leader. “There is a big disconnect between Republicans and the Minnesotans across our state who are demanding that we level the playing field for Greater Minnesota.”
With a $900 million surplus, you wouldn’t expect significant cuts in this bill, however House Republicans are slashing about $20 million from the Job Creation Fund and Minnesota Investment Fund. Since it was created by the DFL Legislature in 2013, the Job Creation Fund has awarded $28 million in pay-for-performance grants for 59 business expansion projects that have leveraged nearly $600 million in private investment and created over 3,700 jobs across the State. In just the last year, MIF awarded $11.2 million in forgivable loans to 21 businesses in MN. This investment leveraged $1.4 billion in private dollars that created more than 1,700 jobs.
“This is bad news for our small and medium-sized businesses, especially in Greater Minnesota and it will greatly limit our ability to create good paying jobs across the state,” said Marquart. “In a time of a $900 million surplus it makes zero sense to halt our efforts to create good paying jobs across our state.”
Governor Dayton and Senate Democrats have brought forward significant economic development initiatives to address racial economic disparities. House Democrats have pushed the Republicans to do the same, but in this bill Republicans are doing next to nothing to address the crisis facing our communities of color.
“For the first time in my career, the issue of racial economic disparities is on the front burner, which is a testament to the Minnesotans across our state who are pushing its leaders to confront this crisis,” said Thissen. “Unfortunately, it’s another example of House Republicans not listening to Minnesotans. When you look at the budget priorities for House Republicans, it is clear they are listening to their well-connected special interests, not ordinary Minnesotans."
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