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SAINT PAUL – (April 29, 2005) -- The Minnesota House of Representatives today passed a Jobs & Economic Opportunity bill that spends more than $1 billion on economic development initiatives designed to spur job creation from Minneapolis throughout rural Minnesota. The broad-based bill also makes changes to strengthen child care assistance programs, and it includes accountability measures in the state’s welfare programs.
'The bill is important to Minnesota because it helps create jobs, encourage tourism and promote affordable housing,' said Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont), chair of the Jobs and Economic Opportunity Policy and Finance Committee. 'Today we made the needed investments in initiatives that will help grow Minnesota’s statewide economy.'
Economic development portions of the bill target money to programs to assist entrepreneurs, inventors and small business development throughout Minnesota. The legislation spends $6.5 million more than Governor Pawlenty for the Challenge Grant program, which targets specific business and community development programs. In addition, the bill also provides help to small businesses to help them access federal development money and devotes funding to programs to enhance job training programs, especially in urban areas.
'There is one word that is critical to increasing the state’s revenue and providing more funding for Minnesota’s priorities, and that word is jobs,' said House Speaker Steve Sviggum. 'This bill keeps the state on the path of economic development and job growth.'
The bill also makes revisions to state child care assistance programs. Most notably, child care licensing fees are reduced by 25 percent to lower child care provider costs and to help spur the creation of more facilities. No changes are set in overall child care reimbursement rates but changes are made to better assist child care providers in rural Minnesota. An accountability measure ensures that funding is denied in instances where there are numerous absences at a provider facility. Finally, the bill calls for the Department of Human Services to conduct a comprehensive child care survey to measure rates and child care availability throughout the state.
In addition to child care, the bill addresses welfare reform. The bill directs the Department of Human Services to present a more extensive report about those applying for state general assistance and food support programs. The report seeks details on applicants who may have come to Minnesota in a prior 12 month period. The overall bill also strengthens public assistance outreach for American Indian children.
Other bill highlights:
· Housing. Spends an additional $6.5 million (in the first year of the biennium) for the Challenge Grant Housing Program and provides funding for Group Residential Housing at Teen Challenge
· Homeless. Provides for supportive housing services akin to the Governor’s proposal to end long-term homelessness
· Tourism. Some $2 million more is added to the state’s tourism account to help booster the marketing of our state’s attractions, including $50,000 to promote tourism along the Great River Road along the Mississippi River.
· History Center. Some $1.4 million more is set aside for the Minnesota Historical Society to ensure the operation of seven historic sites including the Kelley Farm, Hill House, Lower Sioux Agency, Fort Ridgely, Historic Forestville, Forest History Center, and the Comstock House
'This bill does more than focus on jobs. We are spending money to help secure additional funds for affordable housing, provide housing services for the homeless, keep our tourist attractions open and allow school kids to tour the State Capitol without paying $2,' Gunther added.
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